I recently had the pleasure of hosting a parliamentary reception highlighting the important work of the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS). The reception was an opportunity for patients, clinicians and policy makers to come together to discuss the main issues facing AS patient care in the UK and to celebrate the organisation’s hard work over the past year.
Chairman of the organisation, Raj Mahapatra, spoke passionately about the work of NASS and Paul Curry shared his own personal experiences of living with the condition.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is a painful, progressive form of inflammatory arthritis that affects people for life and for which there is no cure. It mainly affects the spine but can also affect other joints, tendons and ligaments.
The reception marked the next phase of the ‘AS It Is’ Campaign which aims to raise the standards of AS patient care in the UK. The campaign is urging NHS England to widely recognise access to physiotherapy as a treatment for AS and to support patients with AS to be more physically active.
The campaign also puts pressure on NHS England to recognise the delay in AS diagnosis and put more resources into education for healthcare professionals. Healthcare professionals should also ensure that work is discussed at appointments and people with AS should have access to an occupational therapist.
Last year NASS, through the ‘AS It Is’ campaign, successfully called on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to take action to develop a national standard of care for spondyloarthritis including AS. The campaign identified that diagnosis times for AS are still hugely inadequate, there are still gaps in the care people with AS receive and that access to physiotherapy and employment advice are both essential to ensure that patients remain active and independent.
I whole-heartedly support the campaign in calling for improved diagnosis times and treatment, access to physiotherapy and supporting patients to stay active. Early diagnosis is critical for people with ankylosing spondylitis because it is a progressive condition with symptoms that, when not addressed properly, can be quite debilitating, draining and painful.
I am very grateful to the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) for organising the event and I commend them for all of the hard work that they do to improve AS patient care in the UK.