Major new report shows the economic and emotional cost of arthritis

Arthritis Research UK has unveiled a major report, The Nation’s Joint Problem, which reveals the current and future impact of two major forms of the condition, osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), on the economy, the NHS as well as families and individuals across the UK.

The report’s key findings include the impact on the economy, predicting working days lost due to OA and RA will increase from 25.1 million today to 25.9 million by 2030. This equates to an annual £3.43 billion productivity hit to the economy. By 2050 these figures will increase to 27.2 million working days and an annual cost of £4.74 billion.

The report also looks at the impact on healthcare, with estimated costs to the NHS and the wider healthcare system of OA and RA currently standing at £10.2 billion. Over the course of the next decade the charity estimates £118.6 billion will be spent on the condition.

Finally, the report looks at the impact on individuals and families. One in six people currently have OA and RA and this is predicted to rise to one in five by 2050. More than three-quarters of people with all types of arthritis say that their family and social lives are compromised by the condition and more than half feel they are a nuisance to their families.

Giuseppe Ferrarelli was one of the lucky ones – the damage arthritis had done to his knee could be repaired by a knee replacement. He had his operation at Barlborough NHS Treatment Centre after a trip while on holiday in Gran Canaria exacerbated an old injury.

He explained: “I had my cartilage partially removed in 1979 and then, in 1990, I had an arthroscopy to clean out the arthritis from the joint. The damage had been caused by years of playing football and, when I was an apprentice in the electricity supply industry, I spent seven years wearing leg-irons to help climbing.”

Mr Ferrarelli went to see his GP and was prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs but he decided not to take any further action until his knee gave way again. This time he had no choice but to act: “My GP looked at my leg and not only was my knee swollen but it was also bent out of shape.”

“I could not fault the team from the moment I walked into the hospital until the moment I left. They were kind and considerate and very attentive.I met Marco La Malfa, the centre’s medical director, on the morning of my surgery. I moved to England from Italy when I was three years old and Marco is from Rome, 40 miles away from where I was born.

“He explained to me that he was going to do the operation using a spinal anaesthetic and there after I would be sedated throughout. I was a little concerned that I would be able to hear everything that was going on but he reassured me. He was right: I was aware of some noise at the very start and the next thing I knew I was being taken back on to the recovery area and then the ward. I laughed to my wife that Marco must have slipped me some Amaretto!”

In the afternoon, Mr Ferrarelli was visited by one of the team’s physiotherapists who helped him to use a walking frame: “It went well so when, the next morning, the physiotherapist suggested walking with crutches, I felt quite confident. We were both happy with the way it went. I had been to the gym before my operation to build up my leg muscles and I really think that paid dividends.”

Two and a half days after the operation Mr Ferrarelli was able to go home: “I laughed with the nurses that I hoped I was on the seven-day all-inclusive package; the food had been so good, with lots of choice, and everyone had been so attentive.”

Medical director Marco La Malfa said: “I am delighted to hear my patient and fellow countryman is recovering well and that he was pleased with the care he received – though I can assure Mrs Ferrarelli no Amaretto was involved!”

Many of Care UK’s treatment centres offer joint replacement operations to NHS patients like Mr Ferrarelli. Often, patients in a lot of pain ask to come to Care UK treatment centres as the waiting lists tend to be much shorter than many local hospitals.