Hundreds of children waiting in pain

(10/10/2016) Hundreds of children with the painful joint condition, arthritis, are being left languishing on waiting lists due to a severe lack of appropriate staff, Arthritis Ireland has warned.

According to the charity, 565 children are currently waiting to see a consultant paediatric rheumatologist for the treatment of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) – the most common form of arthritis found in children. However, there are only two consultant paediatric rheumatologists appointed for the entire country.

Furthermore, waiting lists for young people have jumped this year, with the number of children waiting in pain for at least 18 months to be seen by a doctor, having increased by 400% since January of this year.

Over 1,200 children of all ages are affected by arthritis in Ireland, however the paediatric rheumatology service at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin (OLCHC) simply does not have enough staff to deal with the numbers waiting to be seen.

While there is no cure for arthritis, children can have a normal and active life if they receive the correct standards of care. However in Ireland, children with suspected arthritis are being left for more than a year-and-a-half before being seen. The British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology (BSPAR) recommends that children with suspected arthritis must be seen by a paediatric rheumatology team within four weeks of a referral being made.

“Ireland has only two paediatric rheumatology consultants and we are ranked as having one of the lowest number of paediatric rheumatologists in Europe. If left untreated, this condition can quickly lead to permanent joint damage, muscle wastage and deformity, not to mention the trauma a child and its family experiences. Children deserve better,” commented Arthritis Ireland CEO, John Church.

The charity is highlighting this issue as part of National Arthritis Week, which runs from October 10-16. Speaking about her experience, 16-year-old Darcy White said that she had to wait almost two years to be seen by a doctor.

“Having waited for nearly two years to be diagnosed, I know how important it is to have quick access to a rheumatologist to get the treatment you need. Nobody knows this more than me. Had I been seen earlier my condition would not be this aggressive. The pain is excruciating. It often brings me to tears,” she explained.

She added that arthritis ‘came out of nowhere’, changing her life completely.

“It stopped me from doing the things I love, and I hate it for that. I wish with all my heart that the services for children with arthritis would improve. Children should not be left waiting in pain. Don’t they realise they are robbing our childhood and causing irreparable damage physically and emotionally? Don’t they care?” she asked.

Arthrits Ireland has described this as a ‘national crisis’. It is calling for the urgent appointment of a third consultant paediatric rheumatologist at OLCHC to help tackle the waiting lists there.

“Children on waiting lists are not just waiting in pain, they are also at risk of permanent, irreversible joint damage that impacts on their ability to live as normal a life as possible,” the charity said.

It is appealing to members of the public to sign its petition looking for the appointment of a third consultant paediatric consultant. To sign the petition, click here

For more information on Arthritis Ireland, click here


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