As Arthritis Care celebrates its diamond jubilee, the charity has unveiled a new five-year battle plan - Putting people with arthritis first, setting out its goals to 2012.

The “gloves-off” plan, which has been 18 months in the making after a long consultation with members and stakeholders, envisages a wider range of “innovative” partnerships with the health professions to help bring arthritis to the fore on health, social, recruitment and workplace agendas, “so that nine million Britons living with the condition have their needs met."

“It’s a battle cry,” explained Neil Betteridge, the charity’s chief executive, commenting on the plan. “Arthritis Care is in a positive financial position, fighting fit and ready to confront and tackle all negative attitudes to people with arthritis…We will campaign more vigorously and powerfully to ensure that [patients] get the best services and support, and we won’t take no for an answer.”

’Cinderella’ condition

“For too long, arthritis has been a Cinderella condition – neglected and often ill-treated,” he said, and stressed that people are not aware that is it the biggest cause of physical disability in the UK. “But there are no quick fixes to changing attitudes – and that’s why we have given ourselves five years.”

Putting people with arthritis first will be launched this evening by Rosemary Blair and Betteridge at a reception hosted by the charity’s patron, the Duke of Westminster, and attended by its president, actress and business woman Jane Asher.

A step forward?

Last month, experts and patient groups were given a small victory after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence agreed to reconsider its stance on cycling the use of anti-tumour necrosis factor therapies in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, after an appeal panel ruled that it should reassess the data.

The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society welcomed the decision, saying that it is “a relief for many of the 400,000 people who are living with rheumatoid arthritis in the UK,” as some patients find their therapy becomes less effective over time and so benefit from switching to another one.