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Motion made, and Question put,

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made, and Question put,

Hon. Members: Object.


Madam Speaker: For the convenience of the House, I propose that we take motions 8, 9, 10 and 11 together.

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Education and Employment Committee

Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee

Health Committee

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Exodus Collective

10 pm

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): The background to the petition is the anti-social activities of an organisation known as the Exodus collective, which some two years ago squatted illegally at Long

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Meadow farm. Since then, it has caused considerable misery to my constituents, by running illegal raves and having no consideration for my constituents, some of whom have not been able to get out of their homes while the raves have been going on and some of whom have been denied access to their homes. Those homes have been made filthy by the activities of those who have gone to the raves, and Exodus has acted in a thoroughly anti-social and unneighbourly fashion.

The organisation tried to buy Long Meadow farm. It gave promises that it never kept and strung out the process to such a degree that, in the end, a Minister wrote to me saying that it was no longer realistic to sell the farm to Exodus, and it would therefore be re-advertised. Nine days later, the Minister reversed that decision.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Jamieson.]

10.3 pm

Mrs. Eileen Gordon (Romford): Thank you, Madam Speaker, for allowing me to raise the issue of arthritis. The subject is of keen interest to me, as hon. Members will realise when I say that today is my 30th wedding anniversary, and I am here rather than out with my husband. Some would say that it is a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but I prefer to think that it is one of absence making the heart grow fonder.

As you know, Madam Speaker, Members of Parliament are invited to many events and asked to support many causes. Sometimes one of those events sparks a particular interest, and that is how I became involved with pain management and arthritis. Two years ago, I attended an exhibition put on by the Havering branch of Backcare, which is run by Peter Moore. He has developed an holistic approach to the self-management of back pain. Too often in the past and, unfortunately, still today, people with back pain are told that nothing can be done. They are given painkillers and sent home.

Peter Moore's programme of self-help, "Fighting Back", is based on appropriate exercise, relaxation and techniques for lifting and moving things. The results from those attending the programme show less use of drugs, more confidence and better mobility--in effect, a much improved quality of life. If the Minister wishes to know more about that programme, I should be only too happy to provide more information.

Backcare is a member of the British League Against Rheumatism--BLAR. BLAR is an umbrella organisation for 23 groups including Arthritis Care--which has produced an excellent document, "Arthritis: getting it right"--the Lady Hoare Trust for Physically Disabled Children, the British Society for Rheumatology, Lupus UK and many more.

In this debate, I am using the term "arthritis", although there are of course many different types of arthritis. I hope that the groups concerned and those suffering from arthritis will forgive me for using just the generic term.

I became interested in BLAR's work on musculoskeletal conditions and its self-management course, "Challenging Arthritis", which has similar aims to "Fighting Back". Last week, I hosted an exhibition for BLAR and a reception at the Palace of Westminster, which was very well attended and well received. I heard sufferers from various age groups give moving testimonies of the problems associated with the condition. I thank BLAR for the information and help that it has given me, and especially thank Sophie Edwards, its chief executive.

Musculoskeletal conditions are the biggest cause of physical disability in the United Kingdom. More than 8 million people suffer from arthritis in the UK, and if we include back pain, the figure rises to 11 million. There are some 11,000 sufferers in my constituency and approximately 1,300 of them are under 45 years of age. An estimated 70 Members of Parliament have arthritis. I remember Jo Richardson, who challenged arthritis and battled against pain. She was a role model for many of us. I think also of my assistant Vanessa, who has arthritis of the hip.

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Given the statistics, we must all know someone with the condition, yet we constantly underestimate the numbers affected. In a recent survey among Members of Parliament, 90 per cent. of those polled underestimated the total number of people in the UK who have arthritis; 50 per cent. put the number at 3 million or fewer, yet, as I have said, the true figure is 8 million.

The conditions have a massive effect on the individual, the national health service and the country. The cost to the NHS is estimated to be £600 million a year, involving more than 4 million general practitioner consultations each year. That number is set to rise. There were 10,000 knee replacements in 1989. Between 1985 and 1990--the years for which we have the most recent figures--the national rate almost doubled in patients aged between 65 and 84.

The cost to the individual is great. The major symptom of arthritis is pain. Indeed, 37 per cent. of people with arthritis are in pain all the time, and 60 per cent. have their sleep regularly disturbed. There is no cure, although joint replacement helps, and we still do not know the cause of many forms of arthritis.

For people in constant pain, the impact on established relationships can be dramatic. A spontaneous hug can cause excruciating pain, resulting in tension in the relationship. For people in work, arthritis can mean the abrupt end of a successful career: 50 per cent. of all people with rheumatism and arthritis are forced to stop working within five years of diagnosis--some because employers will not adapt the working environment to allow them to continue.

Arthritis does not only affect elderly people. Of the 8 million people whom I mentioned earlier, 1.2 million are under the age of 45 and more than 14,500 are children. For young people, there can be problems at school. The student may look no different from any other, but will need care, may need medication during the day and may have mobility problems. Teachers need to be aware of how to deal with the condition. Adaptation of school buildings is often suggested and, if not done, can result in a student's inability to take part in the full range of school activities.

A young man at the reception spoke of access problems. His choice of exam subjects had been restricted, and he felt that his life chances had been badly affected. Young patients may have time off school because of hospitalisation, and there must be better support for tuition in hospitals. Fellow students need to understand the condition and its impact on those affected.

If we as a Government are keen to promote social inclusion, the effects of arthritis must be considered, from access to buildings and services to access to goods--people with arthritic hands find it difficult, if not impossible, to cope with modern packaging.

Unlike sufferers from other chronic conditions, arthritis patients bear their own prescription charges. A recent study shows that the cost to the individual for drugs and adaptations or special equipment averages £4,000 a year. For many people, that is a considerable burden.

Although arthritis cannot be cured--as I mentioned, joint replacement helps in many cases--there is effective pain relief, and new drugs are being developed. Groups such as BLAR welcome initiatives such as the establishment of NICE--the National Institute for Clinical Excellence--and the Commission for Health Improvement, but they are

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concerned that those should not become a barrier to access to treatment or a device for rationing. I would welcome my hon. Friend the Minister's assurance on that matter.

There is a need for further training for general practitioners and for consultant expansion, if the Royal College of Physician's target of one rheumatologist per 85,000 population is to be met. Currently in the UK, there are 420 consultants working in rheumatology in 242 rheumatology departments, so there is a long way to go. The best provided region is North Thames, with one rheumatologist per 154,384 population. I hope that my hon. Friend will look into expansion in this specialty.

I mentioned the self-management programmes, "Challenging Arthritis" and "Fighting Back". I hope that my hon. Friend will endorse those initiatives and, if possible, make money available to set up and broaden the availability of self-management courses. Those could form a central part of the expert patients programme. Self-management of pain empowers people to be more independent. It helps to reduce pain and the anxiety and depression that often accompany constant pain.

Those courses are run by volunteers, but arrangements may be made for health and social services professionals to visit the local course--indeed, many already refer patients to them. The courses do not offer medical advice and are not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. They are complementary, but their effect not only benefits the patient, but can have long-term advantages for the health and benefits budget by helping people to return to work and gain independence.

I ask my hon. Friend to encourage health authorities to take up and fund such courses so that they become available to all arthritis sufferers. I urge fellow Members of Parliament to ask their health authorities what services they provide for people with arthritis. Can my hon. Friend give me an assurance that the national service framework on older people will address the needs of older people with arthritis and other conditions, such as Paget's disease, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis? Many older people feel that they do not receive the best treatment because of their age. The National Association for the Relief of Paget's Disease can provide my hon. Friend with many examples of such ageism. It would be good to have a national service framework for arthritis.

I should welcome a special meeting between my hon. Friend and representatives of BLAR to discuss all these issues. Such a meeting would be appropriate, as the decade of bone and joint begins in 2000. That initiative has been endorsed by the United Nations and the Government.

Arthritis Care is running a roadshow next year from March to November, which will be travelling throughout the United Kingdom. The roadshow will provide information, advice and support to people with arthritis. It will also give information to the public. It will have 43 stops on its route and it hopes to reach 100,000 people. I hope that time will be found to visit Romford.

I thank the Minister for his attention during the debate and his consideration of the matters that I have raised. I am asking for more awareness, social inclusion, better access to school, work and health care and for the needs of 8 million people to be taken into account in future health planning.

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10.15 pm

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