Call for better support to keep people with arthritis in work

Iain Gray MSP has attended an exhibition of artwork produced by young Scottish people with arthritis at Holyrood. Mr Gray heard about the impact pain associated with the condition can have on young people, and how it affects their future opportunities to gain skills and employment.

At the exhibition, healthcare charity Versus Arthritis also highlighted its work in Scotland to identify the barriers people with arthritis face in seeking and remaining in employment. Arthritis can make work more difficult, with tasks such as commuting, carrying equipment or even typing becoming challenging.

In Scotland, only 60% of working age adults with a musculoskeletal condition like arthritis are in work compared to 80% of people with no health conditions. The charity also held a reception for MSPs on the impact of arthritis on work in Scotland, attended by the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn MSP.

The Scottish Government has pledged to halve the employment ‘gap’ between disabled people and the rest of the working age population by 2038. For this target to be met it is vital that people with arthritis have the support they need to stay in or return to work. For example one-third of people with rheumatoid arthritis will have stopped working within two years of diagnosis. This increases to half being unable to work after 10 years.

However, the charity found that in Scotland people with arthritis experience negative attitudes from colleagues and employers about their condition and its impact on work. People with arthritis also face difficulties accessing support and need better coordination of health, social security and employment services to help them be in work. This means too many people with arthritis in Scotland go without the support they need and are unnecessarily struggling or dropping out of work.

Versus Arthritis is calling for increased awareness of the impact of musculoskeletal conditions on work and earlier access to interventions that can help people with arthritis manage their condition and remain in employment.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Almost 1.5 million people in Scotland are living with arthritis and related conditions. I wanted to show support in Holyrood for my constituents and highlight the steps we can all take to make life easier for people with arthritis who want to work.

“It is important that people with arthritis in South Scotland are aware of the help available, such as the NHS 24 Musculoskeletal Helpline and Fair Start Scotland, and can access support when they need it.”

Angela Donaldson-Bruce, Scotland Director at Versus Arthritis, said:

It was fantastic to see Iain Gray at our exhibition in Parliament, hearing about the impact of arthritis on working lives and the support that can make a difference.

“Arthritis and the pain it causes slowly intrudes on everyday life, affecting someone’s quality of life, independence, mental health and ability to work. But we know that most people with arthritis want to work, and many can with the right support. MSPs like Iain can help to shine a light on what more can be done.”