Government proposals on prevention: what they mean for people with arthritis

Graciela, a lady with arthritis, lifting weights.

The Government is inviting views on how we can live longer, healthier lives. There are some positive proposals for people with arthritis – but we will continue to demand more action to help people look after their musculoskeletal health.

In 2018, the Government set a mission to ensure that by 2035, people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life and to narrow the gap between the richest and poorest in the country. On 22 July 2019, ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’ was released. This official green paper sets out the Government’s suggestions to tackle preventable ill health and invites people to give their views. So what does this mean for people with arthritis?

Recognition of the impact of arthritis

The green paper highlights that, for the last 30 years, musculoskeletal conditions that cause problems with joints, bones and muscles have been the most common reason for years lived with disability in England. We know that too often arthritis is simply dismissed or overlooked, so this recognition by Government is important. However, we were also expecting concrete actions that would make a real difference and help people to look after their musculoskeletal health.

Action to tackle musculoskeletal conditions in workplaces

We know that people with arthritis often want to work but can find this difficult. That’s why Versus Arthritis is actively campaigning so that people have better support to be in work. We welcome proposals in the paper that the Government will bring together experts to review guidance for employers, develop a package of tools for employers to use to support their employees, and how these can be better promoted and used. These ideas, alongside proposals to address job loss due to ill-health are a start, though more needs to be done to put suggestions into practice and to build understanding of the impact arthritis has on people’s working lives.

Other areas for action

Several other proposals are promising for people with arthritis, including:

  • A call for evidence on musculoskeletal conditions, including priority areas for action such as awareness raising, physical activity, behaviour change programmes and links between mental and musculoskeletal health. Government is also interested in what data should be routinely collected about musculoskeletal conditions;
  • A digital design challenge for strength and balance exercises, focused on people with health conditions;
  • Work with charities and Sport England on a new physical activity campaign; and
  • A ‘Home of 2030’ design competition to explore how more energy efficient, accessible and adaptable homes can be designed.

What happens next?

The consultation runs until mid-October and Versus Arthritis’ policy and public affairs team will be working to ensure that views of people with arthritis are heard by Government through this process. We don’t accept that these proposals are enough and will demand more to tackle the pain, fatigue and isolation that arthritis causes. Add your voice and campaign with us.