I was delighted to host in Parliament last week the second meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Axial Spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) including ankylosing spondylitis (AS). The cross-party group, which is chaired by myself and Lord Campbell-Savours, has been established to help raise awareness of axial SpA and work towards achieving improved outcomes for all those affected by the condition.
Axial SpA (AS) is a painful, progressive form of arthritis that mainly affects the spine but can also affect other joints, tendons and ligaments. The average age of onset is just 24 and there is a typical 8.5 year delay to diagnosis, by which point irreversible damage to the spine may have occurred. The condition affects around 220,000 people in the UK, equivalent to 1 in 200 members of the adult population. That’s twice as many as those with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Despite the significant impact axial SpA (AS) has on individuals and the health system as a whole, the condition has traditionally been under-recognised and underprioritised within the NHS, something which the APPG is aiming to address. To support this objective, the group undertook an inquiry following its inaugural meeting to better understand the availability and quality of axial SpA (AS) services across the country. These findings were presented at the second meeting, alongside examples of how best practice local care pathways have been implemented in parts of the country, and how these could be replicated elsewhere.
As a next step the APPG will be formally publishing its findings and will be working with Parliamentarians and commissioners across the country to ensure the best possible care is made available for those who need it.
Commenting on the work of the APPG, Derek Thomas, Group Chair and Conservative MP for St Ives, West Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly said: “I am delighted with the progress being made by the APPG and the groundwork it is putting in place to support all those affected by axial SpA (AS), both within Cornwall and across the country. As Chair, I look forward to spearheading our efforts to help ensure that local and national services are able to diagnose the symptoms of axial SpA as quickly as possible and provide the vital support and care that that those living with the condition should expect.”