Detecting and treating rheumatoid arthritis in its early stages would result in better value for money for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), according to a new report.

Rheumatoid arthritis costs the NHS an estimated £560m each year and needs to be more coordinated, according to the findings by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Services in place today do not always match the government’s vision of a systematic patient-centred approach, the NAO said.

There are about 580,000 adults in England suffering from the disease, with an additional 26,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Inconsistency in staff roles in different parts of the NHS and provision of quick-response appointments in the event of a flare up as well as insufficient access to psychological services need to be addressed, the report said.