Hi, I’m Steve McBride, and I’m Arthritis Care’s Policy Adviser for Scotland and Northern Ireland. What does that mean? Well, it means my job is to monitor what’s going in the health service, in the Scottish Parliament, and in other places where decisions are made which affect or might affect people with arthritis, to press for the best possible deal for people with arthritis, and to try to make sure that politicians and other decision makers are aware of the needs of people with arthritis. And in the present economic climate there is a lot to watch out for.
We tend of take a lot of our health care system for granted. But what’s there – or not there – is usually the result of a decision taken (or not taken) somewhere along the line. How long you have to wait to be seen in A+E, how long you wait for an appointment with your GP or for a procedure you need, will all depend eventually on how much priority – and how much money – these services have been given.
It can be very difficult to tell where –or when - such decisions are being taken. But one thing we do know for sure is that money is tight everywhere now. And another thing we know is that arthritis is something of a Cinderella condition. It doesn’t get the big attention – and the big money – that conditions like cancer or heart disease do. That is mainly because it is not seen as a disease that kills. But we know that it affects very many people, and that its effect on people’s quality of life can be devastating. And we know that there are always things that can be done, things that can make life better for the person affected.
Improving services for people with rheumatoid arthritis, in line with the Scottish Public Health Network’s needs assessment, is one important area for us. Another is raising the profile of osteoarthritis and improving services for the many people affected by it. Benefits issues, including things like access to blue badges, are another major worry for many people.
And just now we have the excitement of the Referendum, but whatever your views on that, and whatever the outcome, and whoever is in government, you can be certain that the pressures on our health services will not go away. So we have to try to make sure that arthritis gets the priority and funding it needs, so that you or your family will have access to the services you need when you need them. That means being aware of what is happening in government and in the health service and where necessary seeking to influence them. And that means letting people with arthritis know about some of the things that are going on and where necessary enlisting their help – your help - in making a difference by seeking to influence decision makers when it matters.
You also have to have an important role in letting us know what is going on in your areas. Scotland is a big place, and there is no way we can be aware of all that’s going on in your area unless you tell us if services are being cut or needs are not being met. Hopefully we can use this website to facilitate that keen of information flow. I’ll come back to that in later posts, and will also let you know about some relevant developments.