Arthritis Sufferers Done Waiting

Repro Free: Tuesday 26th January 2016. Arthritis patients launch their Why Are We Waiting? campaign outside Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, on Tuesday forming a queue to highlight that 12,000 people – including 400 children – are waiting in pain to see a rheumatology consultant. Arthritis Ireland is calling on the next government to commit to the appointment of just 100 specialist posts to deal with the backlog. Pictured is Colleen White age 9 from Finglas. Picture Jason Clarke.

Arthritis patients launch their Why Are We Waiting? campaign outside Leinster House. Pictured is Colleen White age 9.
Pic: Jason Clarke

Arthritis Ireland has launched a campaign that will call on the next government to ensure that better care is provided for victims of arthritis, many of whom have spent years without the necessary treatment.

On January 26, dozens of arthritis sufferers gathered to protest at Leinster House in Dublin. They called attention to the fact that over 12,000 people are in great pain as they wait for a rheumatology consultation, a thousand of whom are children.

One of these children is nine-year-old Colleen White, who suffers from juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which she was diagnosed with four years ago after dislocating her neck. To cope with this condition, she has to take steroids, a chemotherapy drug, and endure painful injections twice a week. She must also visit the hospital four times a week for various appointments and treatments.

Colleen and her family are passionate supporters of the campaign and appeared on Ireland AM where they spoke about the challenges of the illness and raised awareness of the campaign.

The best practice guidelines advise that in the case of children they be seen within six weeks of the discovery of symptoms, as it can lead to permanent joint damage otherwise.

17-year-old Amie Forde is on several waiting lists for treatment. She has said that at times the pain has become so bad that she has had to be carried around her house “and spoon-fed by someone else because my body couldn’t carry me and my hands couldn’t take holding a spoon or a fork”.

“I’ve had arthritis since I was two years old. Life has been a bit of a battle for me. I have been in a lot of pain and haven’t had a childhood like normal people. It’s been a long road of appointments and waiting lists for nothing to be done.”

Due to her condition she has been unable to attend school and must take home tuition to study for her Leaving Certificate. She must also attend physiotherapy, occupational therapy and hydrotherapy every week, though it could be two years before she gets anywhere on the waiting lists.

With the hashtag #ArthritisChampion, Arthritis Ireland plans to get TDs and election candidates involved in its 100 Day Plan, which involves reducing the waiting lists as well as the considerable cost of living with untreated and undiagnosed arthritis, which is known to cause disability if untreated for too long. Members of the public can aid this process by emailing TDs through the campaign’s website,

The goal of the 100 Day Plan is to ensure that within its first 100 days the new government will appoint six consultant rheumatologists, 29 clinical nurse specialists, 12 advanced nurse practitioners, 21 physiotherapists and 32 occupational therapists.

John Church, chief executive of Arthritis Ireland, stated in regard to the plan:

“We’ve got about 35 rheumatology consultants. We need another 12, but we are compromising by calling for six.

“Nearly one million people across Ireland are living with arthritis, and it’s a chronic disease, so if you’ve got it, you’ve got it for the rest of your life and you’ve got to learn how to live with it. If you don’t intervene early, the costs to the health system are colossal – a hell of a lot more than six consultants.

“It’s great to see support coming in from TDs across the country, but we need commitment from across all political parties to end the needless pain and suffering of people living with arthritis.”

By Kevin Carney