Background Non existence of a National Health system for treating Rheumatic diseases in a holistic way. The Lack of coordination between Health professionals as well as the lack of a strategy and specific programmes for promoting early diagnosis, delayed the start of effective treatment. No rehabilitation centre available. No research programmes for new treatments
Objectives The recognition of RMDs as a major cause of disabilities and absenteeism from work, and as such they should be a priority for government policy.
The involvement of all Stakeholders in a dialogue for the planning and implementation of policy.
The active involvement of patients in policy planning for treating Rheumatic diseases in a holistic manner.
The involvement of patients in creating programmes for promoting early diagnosis, immediate start of treatment and researc
Methods Through the efforts of the patient association, a forum was established for planning of a strategic national plan for rheumatic diseases for the years 2011 -2015. At the initial meeting the Minister of health acted as Chair. There were also representatives from all Government departments involved (pharmaceutical, physiotherapeutic, psychological, nursing, the Rheumatology society and other health professionals). A representative of the patient association was also sitting at the meeting.
Results The national strategy on RMDS is approved by the Government and announced in a press conference by the Minister of Health. Resulting from the years of continuous efforts, the State recognizes the severity of Rheumatic diseases and the large social and economic costs that result from people being out of work and living on Social benefits. Also there is the realization by the State that the participation of the patients in policy planning, together with other stake holders, is absolutely necessary as it concerns their quality of life and that of their families. Hence, there was the apparent need for a coherent plan that would involve all parties concerned together with patients, and which would form a strategy for the treatment of Rheumatic diseases in an effective and holistic manner as their nature demands. To this end, five working areas were defined by the forum. Five sub committees were created for working in each of the designated areas. A person representing each stakeholder sits in every committee.
Conclusions The sub committees have begun working to identify the aims and objectives of their plan, and implementation of some aspects of the plan has already begun. What became evident, is that by the continuous efforts and `'pressure” directed towards policy makers, the patients have succeeded in persuading that they themselves need to be accepted as equal and active partners and work in cooperation with other stakeholders in the planning and implementation of a National strategy on Rheumatic diseases.
Disclosure of Interest None declared