The Department of Health has launched a consultation on the UK's first ever action plan on how rare diseases can be diagnosed and treated more effectively. Proposals have been drawn up that would call for better coordination of care for patients with uncommon ailments, acknowledging the need for better medical training so doctors are more aware of the possibility of rare conditions.
The consultation document also recommends that specialist centres should be used to make exact diagnoses, as this will ensure people are treated earlier, thus increasing their chances of survival. Rare diseases are defined as illnesses that affect fewer than five people per 10,000 members of the population, with the European Council advising recently that all member states should have their own national strategies on this issue.
The rare diseases consultation:
· recommends using specialist centres to make exact diagnosis – this will make sure people are treated earlier and in some cases this could save lives
· acknowledges that all doctors should have the right training to be aware of the possibility of a rare disease
· recommends that the care of patients with rare diseases should be better co-ordinated
Health minister Lord Howe said the new plan "outlines how we can build on our strengths through improved coordination of services, stronger research and better engagement with patients and their families".