Gordon Macdonald MSP joined campaigners to call for support to ensure every person with arthritis who can work has the support they need.
The Edinburgh Pentlands MSP met with people living with arthritis at the Scottish Parliament last week and heard first-hand about the impact that pain associated with the condition can have on the ability to remain 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.
At the event, healthcare charity, Versus Arthritis, highlighted its work with people living with arthritis to identify the barriers they face in seeking and remaining in employment.
The charity found that people with arthritis experience negative attitudes from colleagues and employers about their condition and its impact on work. They also found that people with arthritis face difficulties accessing support and need better coordination of health, social security and employment services to help them be in 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.
Gordon Macdonald said, "Almost 1.5 million people in Scotland are living with arthritis and related conditions. I wanted to show support for my constituents who this affects 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 my constituency, and across 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 Gordon Macdonald at our event in Parliament, hearing from people with arthritis about the impact of the condition on their 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 Gordon Macdonald can help to shine a light on what more can be done.”
Stephanie, a 17 year-old high-school student who was first diagnosed with arthritis aged three, spoke to MSPs at the event about the barriers she faces in planning for future employment, and said, “It was a privilege to be able to speak to influential decision-makers at Versus Arthritis' event and I hope it will make a difference.
"I have had arthritis since I was very young, and I have often felt worried about my future. But thanks to support from Versus Arthritis I’ve become more confident talking about my condition and can manage the impact of my symptoms better. I now feel really excited about what I can do next, and I’m hoping to go to university to study immunology. People with arthritis in Scotland need to be able to get the support they need, when they need it.”