THE BLOG

Why Public Health Spending Cuts Are Bad News for People With Arthritis

27/11/2015 16:18 GMT | Updated 26/11/2016 10:12 GMT

The Chancellor has taken his knife to the public health budget for local councils.

Going to work, walking to the shops, standing in a queue. For a person living with the daily pain of arthritis, these simple movements can become impossible.

Karen is someone already living this reality. She lives with arthritis but is too young for a knee operation so has to 'just get on with it'.

Talking about her experience of arthritis Karen said that it's changed her life entirely: "I find walking difficult and I can only walk short distances. I rely on my husband a great deal to help me round the house and to help me in and out of the bath. I try to positive and upbeat where possible."

Less money, more people in pain

There are over 10 million in the UK just like Karen - living with the debilitating pain and disability that arthritis can cause.

Yesterday, the Government decided to cut the money it gives to local councils to help improve people's health and wellbeing, and prevent conditions like arthritis.

We know that helping somebody to lose weight helps them reduce their risk of arthritis, and reduces the extra stress on their joints. For people already living with arthritis and joint pain, keeping physically active is a proven way to help manage their pain.

These cuts mean that many vital local programmes that tackle the underlying causes of arthritis will now be directly at risk of cuts - local facilities like leisure centres and parks could well be in the firing line.

Without these services helping to prevent arthritis at a local level, the number of people living with the pain of arthritis will sky-rocket. Our own research indicates that people living with knee osteoarthritis will go up from 4.7 million to 8.3 million by 2035 owing to the ageing population and growing levels of obesity.

Threat to our NHS

In the long-term there's more bad news for people with arthritis.

Inevitably more people in pain with long-term conditions means more pressure on GP appointments, operation waiting times, and other local health services.

Ignoring this comes with a hefty price tag too - arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions cost the NHS £5 billion a year. Last year there were over 70,000 knee operations in the NHS alone.

In the long-run, this cut will cost our NHS more, undermining the Government's much trumpeted investment.

Widening regional health gap

And there's more worrying news for people with arthritis hidden in the details of the Government's announcement.

The Chancellor gave us a big indication about the future, raising the threat of all government funding for public health being wiped out.

The Government hopes that local councils will be able to fund all public health through new council powers to raise more money through the business rates that local businesses pay.

The big question for people with arthritis is how this can be done fairly and evenly across the country in a way that doesn't punish people in more deprived areas where councils can't raise as much.

It could mean that if you live in one part of the country, your access to services to help manage the pain of your arthritis could be far below what you might get in another part of the UK.

This move, if it happens, could see even bigger health inequalities between different regions, with people with arthritis in poorer areas being effectively punished for where they live.

This spending review was a missed opportunity for the Chancellor to help 10 million people live their lives free from the pain of arthritis, joint and back pain, and prevent millions more from ever having to experience this pain.

Over many years we have campaigned hard to make sure there is enough money to help prevent arthritis so less people have to live like this. We want you to join us to ask the Chancellor to listen and rethink his decision.

Check if your local MP is fighting to prevent arthritis and give a voice to local people living in pain by visiting www.arthritisresearchuk.org/mychampions