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Patient satisfaction not related to quality of care

GPs are too slow to refer patients with suspected rheumatoid arthritis and only rarely prescribe disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, a new audit concludes.

On average it took 16 weeks for patients with 'RA-like' polyarthritis to see a specialist, whereas current guidelines advise an appointment within six to eight weeks of symptoms appearing, according to the report in the

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (September).

The researchers found only 10 per cent of patients were prescribed disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs by their GP and urged prompter

treatment to slow the progression from persistent polyarthritis to RA.

But GPs rejected the criticism, saying delays in treatment were caused by long waits for rheumatology appointments, rather then their referral policy.

Dr Peter Glennon, a GP in Stafford and member of the Arthritis Research Council's education sub-committee, said GPs without rheumatology training were reluctant to initiate anti-rheumatic therapy.

'If a GP does initiate, it is usually because of a problem in secondary care,' he said.

'The problem is rheumatology clinics are often swamp-

ed with non-inflammatory referrals.'

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