Michael Matheson has backed calls for better support to keep people with arthritis in work.

The Falkirk West MSP attended a Versus Arthritis exhibition at Holyrood last week, which highlighted the charity’s work in Scotland to identify the barriers people with musculoskeletal conditions face in seeking and remaining in employment. The exhibition also included artwork by young Scots with arthritis, whose opportunities to gain skills and employment can be affected by the painful condition.

In Scotland, only 60% of working age adults with a musculoskeletal condition like arthritis are in work compared to 80% of people with no health conditions.

The Scottish Government has pledged to halve the employment gap between disabled people and the rest of the working age population by 2038. Versus Arthritis is calling for increased awareness of the impact of musculoskeletal conditions on work and earlier access to interventions that can help people with arthritis manage their condition so they can remain in employment.

Mr Matheson said: “I am grateful to Versus Arthritis for this opportunity to hear more about the impact the condition has on working lives and what can be done to improve support for those affected.

“It is important that people with arthritis in Falkirk district are aware of the help available, such as the NHS 24 musculoskeletal helpline and the Fair Start Scotland employment support service.”

Angela Donaldson-Bruce, Scotland director at Versus Arthritis, said: “It was fantastic to see Michael Matheson at our exhibition.

“Arthritis and the pain it causes slowly intrudes on everyday life, affecting someone’s quality of life, independence, mental health and ability to work. But we know that most people with arthritis want to work – and many can with the right support.

“MSPs like Michael Matheson can help to shine a light on what more can be done.”

The free musculoskeletal helpline on 0800 917 9390 is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Fair Start Scotland in Forth Valley can be contacted on 0800 028 0363 or by emailing fairstartforthvalley@falkirk.gov.uk