Refer RA cases faster, NICE says

GPs should refer urgently patients with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to a specialist, NICE guidance says.

Last month, a report by The King's Fund said RA patients often made multiple GP visits before they received a referral.

The NICE guidance, issued this week, aims to address this problem by making it easier for GPs to identify RA.

The guidance urges GPs to refer any patient with suspected persistent synovitis of undetermined cause to a specialist.

GPs should refer urgently if small joints of the hands or feet are affected, if more than one joint is affected or if symptoms have persisted for three months.

Dr Louise Warburton, a GP in Shropshire and member of the RA guideline development group, said: 'This guideline will help GPs diagnose RA early.'

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