The Queen’s Speech – what it means for people with arthritis

23 December 2019
Abigail sat in her lounge with a cup of tea, looking away to the distance.
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Having won a majority on the 12 December, the Conservative Party now turn to the task of governing. With Brexit still to be resolved, they're also faced with a stacked domestic in-tray.

The Queen’s Speech outlined the Government’s policy plans for the next Parliament, touching on many issues that will impact people with arthritis. Before our thoughts turn to turkey and sprouts, we take a look at the agenda for the next few years.

What is the Queen’s Speech?

Each time a new Parliament is formed, the Queen makes the trip across London to the House of Lords to official open the session. Amongst the pomp and odd traditions, the Queen reads out a speech that lists the Government’s plans. A lot of these plans were already referenced in the Conservative’s Party’s election manifesto, with more detail added.

We analyse three key announcements for people with arthritis

National Disability Strategy

The Government announced that they would publish a National Disability Strategy in 2020. The proposal is wide-ranging as it aims to “support disabled people in all aspects and phases of their life”. 

Arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions are the single biggest cause of disability in the UK and people with arthritis should be at the forefront of the forthcoming strategy.

We know that healthcare is only one of the aspects that support people with arthritis to live well, and it's encouraging to hear the Government will take a holistic approach to well-being. It will cover housing, education, transport, benefits and employment. 

Whilst details are scant at this stage, it seems that the strategy will bring together new proposals with various strands of work that are already in motion. This includes work to encourage employers to support people to be in employment, no matter their condition.

One area that the Government should include is reform to the provision of home adaptations. From our research, we know the positive impact home aids and adaptations can have on a person with arthritis. Read more.

However, a key independent review of the Disabled Facilities Grant, commissioned by the Government, has yet to be acted upon. We recommend that the Government implements key recommendations from this review.  

It's encouraging that the Government commits to working directly with disabled people and charities, and we look forward to being involved in this work.  

Employment 

The Government announced that they would propose an ‘Employment Bill’ and build on previous proposals to ensure people with disabilities are supported to be in employment and will include looking at ways of flexible working.   

Arthritis accounts for 28.2 million lost working days each year and for a fifth of all sickness absences. Any proposed bill should be developed with people with arthritis in mind and should support them to be in employment. 

A range of types of support can help people with these conditions to thrive in work. However, people’s experiences and ability to access such support is variable. Read more.

Any proposals on supporting disabled people to be in work should include immediate and ongoing promotion of Access to Work to reach more people with musculoskeletal conditions and their employers.

NHS

As with all elections, the NHS again came to the fore. The Conservatives used the Queen’s Speech to reiterate their plans for how they would fund the health service over this Parliament.

As announced earlier this year, the legislation will make the projected £33.9 billion increase in cash terms by 2023-24 for the NHS legally binding. It's good to see meaningful investment in the health service. However, it's vital that the funding is used effectively. Emphasis should be placed on funding preventative interventions and improvements to the quality of care.

Joint-replacement surgery can be transformative for people with arthritis, and it's vital that any NHS bill protects patients’ rights to timely surgery.

We will be working to hold the Government to account and deliver real change for people with arthritis. Want to help us? Get involved and join the campaigns network.