Almost half of arthritis patients responding to a survey had appointments cancelled during the coronavirus crisis.
It’s led to a charity urging the Scottish Government to make sure they are not forgotten in NHS recovery plans.
A Versus Arthritis survey found the pandemic has had “devastating” consequences for many patients managing arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.
It also found 43% of those questioned have had appointments cancelled, while just over one in three (37%) said they have not had access to the care and treatment they need to manage their pain.
The charity is now warning ministers that if people continue to be unable to access appropriate care, hundreds of thousands of patients across the country are at risk of significant health deterioration.
Versus Arthritis Scotland director Angela Donaldson-Bruce said: “The NHS has just about survived Covid-19 so far, but at the expense of services that many relied upon to sustain their quality of life.
“The Scottish Government must take urgent steps to ensure people with arthritis are not forgotten or ignored. We can’t go back to ‘normal’ – we must demand better.
“It’s imperative that recovery plans include arthritis treatments, including joint replacement surgery, so this crisis does not accelerate further.”
The charity surveyed more than 6000 people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions across the UK, including 600 people in Scotland.
It found more than half (51%) of those north of the border reported being unable to manage their pain to undertake basic tasks, and the same proportion said they are not able to be physically active.
‘The Scottish Government must take urgent steps to ensure people with arthritis are not forgotten or ignored.’Angela Donaldson-Bruce, director of Versus Arthritis Scotland
Four in 10 (40%) reported feeling more lonely or isolated, rising to 46% amongst those who have been self-isolating.
The charity said almost one-third of the Scottish population live with a musculoskeletal condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and back pain.
It said that even before Covid-19, many faced long waits to access health services including physiotherapy, rheumatology and crucial joint replacement surgery.
Eileen Wathew, from Prestwick in South Ayrshire, suffers from osteoarthritis and has been on the waiting list for a knee replacement since November 2019.
She was meant to be operated on in May but her surgery was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The 54-year-old said: “The pain is getting worse and worse, and I can’t stand for longer than ten minutes without it becoming too much.
“Living in pain every day has drastically affected my life. I gave up my 30-year career as a nurse, I’ve lost my independence, and I’ve become more and more isolated, even before the pandemic.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said they “appreciate how difficult it has been for people who have had procedures or treatments postponed” because of the pandemic.
In a statement, he added: “The Scottish Government’s NHS re-mobilisation framework sets out how paused services will be resumed, and we are working with the NHS and all relevant stakeholders to ensure this happens as quickly and as safely as possible.
“Some local health boards have offered virtual or telephone consultations to people regarding pain management, and all boards will do so in coming weeks.
“Nationally we have also produced tailored advice and guidance to help people self-manage their condition and access local and online support services, including those provided by Versus Arthritis.
“Additional safety measures to protect staff and patients will inevitably mean that some services may not be able to be resume as quickly as we wish, but it is vitally important that we resume services safely.
“We will continue to do all we can to support boards to catch up on any outpatient and inpatient treatments that have been postponed, while ensuring that Scotland’s NHS remains ready to respond to any ongoing Covid-19 demands as required.”