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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many PhD students, involved in rheumatoid arthritis research, are funded by (a) public and (b) charitable funds. [118450]

There are no PhD students involved in rheumatoid arthritis research from the national primary care awards, national public health awards, national clinician scientist awards, complementary and alternative medicine awards or nursing and allied health professions awards.The main Government agency for research into the causes of and treatments of disease is the Medical Research Council, which receives its funding from the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Technology. It does not hold information on the projects being undertaken by PhD students funded by itself.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will list the primary care trusts that do not fund anti-TNF therapy for patients with rheumatoid arthritis where that treatment is clinically indicated; [118451](2) what

(a) national and (b) local departmental targets relate to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. [118452]

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended the use of anti-TNF therapy in March 2002. We have issued directions obliging strategic health authorities and primary care trusts to provide appropriate funding for treatments recommended by NICE. This is in line with our manifesto commitment to ensure that patients receive drugs and treatments recommended by NICE on the national health service if considered appropriate by their clinicians. The Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) and NICE have agreed a methodology for CHI to incorporate the monitoring of NICE guidance in its clinical governance reviews. Specifically CHI now looks to see if NHS trusts have mechanisms in place to implement and comply with NICE guidance. CHI will also support and facilitate clinicians to discuss when NICE guidance is and is not followed on an individual patient basis.There are no specific national targets relating to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, maximum waiting times have already been reduced to 21 weeks for a first out-patient appointment from general practitioner referral, and national targets have been set for further reductions. Rheumatoid arthritis patients waiting for first out-patient appointments stand to benefit from these improvements.Information about local targets relating to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is not collected centrally.