By Gareth Iacobucci
GPs need more training in order to spot the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis more quickly and effectively, according to a report from the Committee of Public Accounts.
The report: Services for people with rheumatoid arthritis, found that GPs often fail to recognise the symptoms of the condition, causing delay in referring to a specialist for a diagnosis.
It urges the DH to encourage the RCGP to provide more training on rheumatoid and inflammatory arthritis when it implements its plan to extend the duration of training for GPs.
It says such training will help trainee GPs ‘identify the early signs of inflammatory arthritis and emphasise the importance of early referral to specialists’.
The committee advised the Government to launch a public campaign to raise people’s awareness of the symptoms of the condition, and the need to seek medical attention.
The report also raises concerns about ‘significant variations’ in the cost of providing services for rheumatoid arthritis, citing data from the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society which identifies variations in PCT spending on services of between £5.68 and £17.58 per head.
It urges the DH to identify the reasons for variations in spending, and to set national benchmarks.
Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the committee of Public Accounts, said: ‘What is so frustrating is that, since 2003, the average time from the first appearance of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis to diagnosis and first treatment has remained constant at around nine months.
‘The root of this delay is a widespread lack of knowledge. The DH should launch a public education campaign this year, emphasising the symptoms and how important it is to seek medical attention without delay.
‘And GPs need more training on the disease, highlighting possible symptoms and the importance of promptly referring patients to a specialist where rheumatoid arthritis is suspected.’