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Arthritis: Health Services

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of rheumatoid arthritis services; what steps his Department is (a) taking and (b) plans to take to encourage primary care trusts to commission services in line with this assessment in the next six months; and if he will make a statement. (322283)

The Department has not made any specific assessment of the effectiveness of rheumatoid arthritis services.

It is the responsibility of primary care trusts as commissioners of health care services to ensure that their populations have access to the services that reflect their needs, priorities and aspirations and that the design and provision of services is evidence based.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to improve the training provided to GPs in respect of rheumatoid arthritis; what funding his Department is providing to support this training; when he anticipates the educational material to be provided by his Department; and if he will make a statement. (322284)

We recognise the importance of training in rheumatoid arthritis. The Government do not specify the content of the general practitioner training curriculum. This is developed by the Royal College of General Practitioners. Responsibility for approval of the curriculum reset with the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB), which is the competent authority for postgraduate medical training in the United Kingdom. PMETB is an independent professional body.

From 1 April 2010, the content of postgraduate medical training will be the responsibility of the General Medical Council (GMC) following a merge of the two organisations.

Central funding for postgraduate medical training is provided through Multi-Professional Education and Training (MPET).

Educational materials are developed by the appropriate professional bodies, such as the Medical Royal Colleges, and those responsible for delivering medical education.

While it is not practicable or desirable for the Government to prescribe the exact training that any individual doctor will receive we are, of course, aware of the need to ensure perceived areas of weakness in training curricula are addressed. For that reason, we are liaising with the Regulators and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges about how best to ensure curricula do meet requirements.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his most recent assessment is of progress towards meeting the 18-week waiting time target for access to rheumatoid arthritis services; what assessment he has made of the effect of the waiting time target on the provision of rheumatology services; and if he will make a statement. (322285)

Latest figures, for December 2009, show that 98 per cent. of non-admitted rheumatology patients and 99 per cent. of admitted rheumatology patients started their treatment within 18 weeks of referral. Rheumatology is the treatment function category into which most rheumatoid arthritis patients will fall.

The 18 weeks waiting time standard has significantly improved access to consultant-led treatment—including patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Implementing the 18-week standard has driven earlier diagnosis and treatment of new patients—which is of particular benefit for patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.