‘Drugs scheme for arthritis welcome, but more still suffering’

ALLIANCE Councillor Sara Duncan has welcomed the news that more patients in the Eastern Health and Social Services Board area will receive medication as part of a programme to relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.

However, figures provided by the EHSSB show that 113 patients in the Board’s area would still not be provided with the treatment for this painful life-limiting condition.

Councillor Duncan said: “One of my constituents is badly disabled by Rheumatoid Arthritis and spoke to me about having been assessed as needing drugs. But because they had been on a waiting list for some time, I asked about the Board’s Plans for investment of funds directed at Rheumatoid Arthritis drugs.”

“The reply came in writing to me to say that in its financial provisions for 2004/05 the DHSS&PS made sufficient money available for 100 more patients in Northern Ireland to receive these drugs.

“In February 2004 there were 65 EHSSB residents receiving the therapies. At the time, there were 177 EHSSB residents assessed as suitable and waiting for treatment.

“The Department said if the Eastern Board were to address its share of the 100 patients which the they set as a target, this would be 41 additional patients. The DHSS&PS has provided £1 million to reach the target and the Eastern Board will invest its share – £408,000 – to put about 41 more patients onto the new therapies.

“In addition to the £408,000 the Board has identified funds from its existing baseline to put a further 29 patients onto the therapies, making a total of 69 new patients on the treatment. This will in effect more than double the number of Eastern Board patients receiving the treatments.

“The Department’s target will therefore be exceeded but there will still be 113 people waiting for the treatment in March 2005. It is also expected that further patients will be assessed as being suitable for treatment during 2004/05 and this will add to the numbers waiting.

“While I welcome the funding for more treatment, many people will be left out of the programme. Their suffering with rheumatoid arthritis is incredible, and I would urge the Department to remember that 113 lives in the Eastern Board area and many more elsewhere are on hold until they receive the appropriate medication.”

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