Children waiting in pain need funding

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Arthritis Ireland

CHILDREN in Limerick living with painful Arthritis, which in some cases may threaten their sight, need urgent investment in services, according to Arthritis Ireland.

The group is calling for immediate funding in paediatric rheumatology as waiting lists are growing nationally for children who need to see paediatric rheumatologists.

An estimated 45 children in Limerick are living with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

Symptoms of JIA can include swollen and painful joints, impaired coordination, fatigue, high fever, rashes, and for up to 30 per cent of patients, uveitis which is a potentially sight-threatening disease.

Arthritis Ireland is calling upon the HSE and the Department of Health to implement the national model of care for paediatric rheumatology, which was approved in June 2016 and as part of National Arthritis Week April 9-15, has launched #SeeMe which is an awareness campaign to highlight this issue.

Arthritis Ireland says that International best practice indicates that patients with suspected JIA should be seen by a paediatric rheumatologist within six weeks of the referral being made, however in Ireland children are waiting more than a year.

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The organisation said that the number of children and young people under 16 waiting more than a year to see a consultant paediatric rheumatologist increased by 80 per cent in the 12 months since January 2017. At the end of January 2018, 902 were on the rheumatology outpatient waiting list, a 33 per cent increase on January 2017.

CEO of Arthritis Ireland Gráinne O’Leary said, “JIA is a long-term autoimmune disease that affects children and young people at a time when life should be an adventure. Our children and young people need and deserve to receive prompt, timely access to care, diagnosis and clinical assessment.

“The way to address this is through the implementation of the national model of care for paediatric rheumatology. Despite being approved in June 2016, progress has been painfully slow in delivering upon its recommendations. With every delay and inaction, our children’s lives are impacted.”

The model of care recommends the minimum requirements for a specialist team delivering paediatric rheumatology care should include six consultants, but there are currently 2 full time equivalent consultant paediatric rheumatologist posts in Ireland.

Arthritis Ireland is asking people to sign a petition on their website calling on the Minister for Health to implement the model of care for paediatric rheumatology.

Further information see www.juvenilearthritis.ie and www.arthritisireland.ie.

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