People suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) could benefit from better trained doctors and faster treatment, a health industry member has said.
Federico Moscogiuri, head of policy and campaigns at Arthritis Care, has called for GPs to be "adequately equipped to identify the symptoms of RA and refer patients promptly for specialist treatment".
However, a National Audit Office report in 2009 found that only 66 per cent of acute trusts were satisfied that GPs were referring RA patients to them quickly enough.
Mr Moscogiuri's comments follow the release of a paper from the Commons public accounts committee which found that an estimated 580,000 people in England are suffering from the disease.
The report also revealed that by beginning to treat the illness within three months of diagnosis, RA could be prevented from worsening.
Despite this, the typical time between first symptoms and the beginning of treatment for an RA patient is nine months.
Mr Moscogiuri echoed the report, saying: "Early diagnosis and referral is key for treating and managing RA, which is why greater awareness of the condition and better GP training are so important."