Welsh Assembly Members have voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion calling on the Government to provide a fully dedicated rheumatology service for children living with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) in South Wales.
The debate followed a campaign by the National Rheumatology Arthritis Society, Arthritis Care and the British Society of Rheumatology to encourage the Welsh Government to take action – Wales is currently the only home nation without such a centre.
JIA is a severe autoimmune condition, which can cause severe joint pain, swelling and stiffness. It can affect very young children through to adolescents and has no cure.
An estimated 600 children are affected by the condition in Wales. It is one of the most common causes of physical disability during early childhood – affecting 1 in 1,000 children under the age of 16.
The Welsh Government will now be under pressure to implement calls to create a full paediatric rheumatology service in Wales for children with JIA, which should include one consultant paediatric rheumatologist, two nurse specialists, one physiotherapist and an occupational therapist.
Matthew Bezzant, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at NRAS commented on the motion: “We are delighted that this motion has passed – and for the children in Wales with JIA that this will serve if implemented by the Welsh Government. A dedicated rheumatology service will mean local support, with fewer families having to travel to England for basic services.”
Dr Zoe McLaren, Devolved Nation Chair for Wales, BSR agreed: “We are very pleased that the Welsh Assembly has decided to support our call for a fully dedicated multidisciplinary paediatric rheumatology centre in Wales. We hope that the Welsh Health Specialist Service Committee will react positively to the Welsh Assembly’s support.”
Mary Cowern, Director of Arthritis Care Wales said: “Children with arthritis need access to high quality health and support services to help limit the physical and emotional impact of their condition and to enable them to reach their true potential. The development of multidisciplinary paediatric rheumatology services is a much-needed resource in Wales and would make a huge difference to the lives of children with arthritis and their families.”