Stats reveal Ipswich tops postcode lottery for arthritis referrals in east

Ipswich Hospital

Ipswich Hospital

Ipswich Hospital has topped a postcode lottery of referrals for people suffering from suspected inflammatory arthritis, new figures have revealed.

A report published by the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) has revealed that Ipswich Hospital was the best in the region for referring patients – but only half the number of patients were being referred in the target three-day period.

Guidelines set out by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), states that those suffering from persistent pain of small joints in the hands and feet, or in more than one joint, should be referred to the rheumatology services within three days.

For Ipswich Hospital 51% were referred within three days compared to a national average of 20%, but was still some way short of the target.

An Ipswich Hospital spokesman said: “Commissions and commissioners have been working together to transform services so that patient journeys are more effective, and rheumatology is one of the areas in this new way of working.

“We are looking at all our services and considering best practice so in the future these services will better take into account NICE guidance.”

The wide disparity across the region, where many services referred less than 5% of patients in the target three days, suggested that treatment was as much a postcode lottery.

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Around 90% of patients were seen by rheumatology specialists within three weeks of GP consultations.

Health professionals have highlighted the increased chance of remission in arthritis symptoms if treated early – which doctors say would reduce the need for costly drug treatments or benefit payouts.

Clinical audit director Dr Jo Ledingham from the BSR, said: “GPs understand the need for speed when it comes to diagnosing and referring cancer patients, yet many still don’t understand that they need to treat inflammatory arthritis with the same urgency.

“I hope this report serves as a wake-up call to everybody involved in referring, diagnosing, treating and commissioning services for inflammatory arthritis – from GPs to specialists. In particular, far quicker, and more consistent referral and treatment times need to be achieved across England and Wales.”