Skip to content

Why Our Knees Are Buckling Under The Strain Of Nhs Waiting Lists

Last week, we helped client Contura Orthopaedics Ltd launch a new report exploring the social and economic impact of knee osteoarthritis and the need to welcome treatment innovation via non-invasive alternatives to surgery.  Launch day propelled the report into the spotlight, with 26 national and regional broadcast interviews spearheaded by Brand Ambassador Sharron Davies MBE.  

Leading orthopaedic experts lent their voice to the comprehensive, new report [Under Pressure: A Report on the State of the Nation’s Knees] which investigates the current challenges faced by patients across the UK who are seeking solutions to the chronic pain and immobility associated with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Download a full copy of the report here.

The independently authored review was released on Tuesday 4 June and  highlighted the huge waiting lists faced by many patients referred for physiotherapy or potential surgical intervention. However, the report also aims to provide a more positive perspective to the current landscape by setting out the debate around the benefits of non-invasive treatments entering the market, such as Arthrosamid®, an injectable hydrogel that is a simple one-step procedure, which many patients – wishing to delay or even avoid knee replacement surgery – are simply not aware of.

Supported by the key findings of a national opinion poll1 – also commissioned by Contura Orthopaedics Ltd – the report reflects the levels of anxiety surrounding joint problems and a worrying misconception of “inevitability”, with 80% of respondents fearing that joint pain is just an unavoidable part of getting older. 67% of people go on to say it was their “biggest concern” about ageing, above dental issues (37%) or hair loss (26%).

Almost a quarter of people (22%) questioned said that joint pain makes it harder for them to sleep or take part in pastimes such as gardening or golf – but when asked about effective ways of managing their pain, almost half (48%) said that they worry about the long-term effect of prescribed pain killers.1

It is estimated that 10 million people live with osteoarthritis and from these figures, it can be extrapolated that about 5.4 million of those people are living with this degenerative disease in their knees2. And, each year in the UK, an estimated 350,000 people will be diagnosed with osteoarthritis, with 55 being the average age when symptoms are noticed2.

With much of the UK population now working well into their 60s, and even 70s, the active workforce includes a significant number who are trying to manage their osteoarthritic knees. It’s believed that someone with arthritis is 20% less likely to be in work than someone without the condition – creating a negative economic impact2.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in April this year more than 800,000 people were waiting to be treated for cases of trauma and orthopaedics3, a figure which includes a high number awaiting osteoarthritic knee surgery. And latest figures from NHS England show that only 54% of those awaiting orthopaedic and trauma surgery were seen within the promised 18-week timescale4.

However, for those who undergo surgery, the Royal College of Surgeons of England reports that it will take most patients about six weeks before they are pain free and 3-6 months before they are able to resume normal activities5. Indeed, the new survey findings featured in the “Under Pressure” report show that more than one in five people (23%) say they “can’t afford to take the time off work to recover from knee surgery”1.

Even then, a knee replacement operation is not always the end of the story.

The report also highlights that whilst 90% of total knee replacements (TKR) are still working a decade later, in patients aged under 55, this drops to around 75% after 15 years6. In essence, the younger patients are, when undergoing TKR surgery, the more likely they will be to require a further operation to replace the then worn-out replacement joint – which can be challenging surgery, often with poorer outcomes than the initial knee operation.

As a result, there are growing calls from both patients and healthcare professionals for greater awareness and improved access to nonsurgical, treatment options. And, as the new report highlights, the published research around the cutting-edge injectable hydrogel Arthrosamid® is hugely encouraging, delivering long-lasting respite from the pain and immobility of knee osteoarthritis (even three years post-treatment), without the need for surgery.7-8

Broadcaster and former Olympic swimmer, Sharron Davies MBE was treated with Arthrosamid® in September 2022, when her consultant suggested she had the injection (which at the time was then new to the UK) to help ease the pain in her knee caused by Stage 4 osteoarthritis.

Sharron, 61, says; “I’m usually sceptical about these things but read up on it and decided to give it a go. I know I will eventually need a knee replacement, but this treatment could buy me more time and delay having surgery. I didn’t notice much change in the first two weeks, but then it got better and better. My pain is now significantly reduced, whereas before I would be sitting on the sofa after a long day rubbing my sore knee.

“Now, more than 18 months on, I exercise almost every day, going to the gym, cycling, and walking and keeping fit. My knee now allows me to still do it all.”

Rakesh Tailor, CEO of Contura Orthopaedics comments; “Far too many people know the painful reality of living with osteoarthritis in their knees. It can mean suffering discomfort on a daily basis, with the knowledge that it’s only likely to get worse. The aim of this new report is to highlight the plight of these patients struggling with access to treatment options in the UK. Although your doctor will be doing their best for you, the truth is that, for some time, there’s been a lack of options they can offer their patients with osteoarthritic knees.

“The story of Arthrosamid® is a fascinating one. First used in the veterinary world to treat lame horses, it’s now used in a pioneering way to treat the ‘human knees’ which are being damaged by osteoarthritis – and already, in less than three years, some 10,000 people across Europe have had Arthrosamid® injected into their knees.”9

Arthrosamid® is the first and only approved injectable treatment that permanently combines with the knee’s synovial tissue10 – decreasing joint stiffness, diminishing pain, improving the function of the knee, and enhancing quality of life.8,11,12,13.  With joint replacement surgery having previously been the only option for those with late-stage knee OA, Arthrosamid® is widely acknowledged as redefining treatment for patients living with knee pain. Arthrosamid® is administered via a simple, one-step procedure performed under local anaesthesia by a qualified physician, such as an orthopaedic surgeon or rheumatologist14 — ensuring you’re in and out of the clinic the same day.


1 An online survey was conducted by Atomik Research among 1,504 respondents from across the UK. The research fieldwork took place on 11th March – 12th March 2024. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code.

2 Versus Arthritis: 2023 State of MSK Health Report.

3 The Office for National Statistics, April 2024

4 NHS England, April 2024

5 The Royal College of Surgeons of England, Recovery Tracker

6 Total Knee Replacement Surgery patient information booklet, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

7 Bliddal, H., et al. (2023) A Prospective Study of Polyacrylamide Hydrogel Injection for Knee Osteoarthritis: Results From 3 Years After Treatment. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. Vol 31(5): 682-683.

8 Bliddal, H., et al. (2024) 3-year follow-up from a randomized controlled trial of intra-articular polyacrylamide hydrogel injection in subjects with knee osteoarthritis. Poster LB-31, OARSI 2024 World Congress on Osteoarthritis.

9 Contura Orthopaedics, data on file

10 Christensen, L., et al. (2016). Histological Appearance of the Synovial Membrane after Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis with Polyacrylamide Gel Injections: A Case Report. Journal of Arthritis. Vol 5: 217.

11 Bliddal, H., et al. (2021) Polyacrylamide Hydrogel Injection for Knee Osteoarthritis: A 6 Month Prospective Study. J Orthop Res Ther. Vol 6 (2). 1188. ISSN 2575-8241

12 Bliddal, H., et al. (2022). One-year performance of polyacrylamide hydrogel vs. hyaluronic acid: A randomised controlled study. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Vol 30, S1, S371.

13 Bliddal, H., et al. (2023) A Prospective Study of Polyacrylamide Hydrogel Injection for Knee Osteoarthritis: Results From 3 Years After Treatment. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. Vol 31(5): 682-683.

14 Arthrosamid®, Instructions For Use (IFU) Release Date March 2022. 10082-003.

Back To Top