South Shields MP has shown her support for those living with arthritis in South Tyneside

South Shields MP, Emma Lewell-Buck met with the founder of a new arthritis support group in South Tyneside, to show her commitment to those living with the condition.

By Sarah Sinclair
Friday, 19 July, 2019, 11:30
Jeffrey Usher, from the new Versus Arthritis support group, meets South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck

Jeffrey Usher, of Beaconside, South Shields set up the local Versus Arthritis group in June, after becoming a volunteer for the national charity.

The 71-year-old, a former firefighter and long distance runner, was diagnosed with osteoarthritis 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey’s daughter, Sharon Simpson, 47, who is helping to run the group, has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 36.

“It can be very difficult. Luckily I have had a very supportive family around me but a lot of people don’t have that,” said Jeffrey.

The group, which is held on the second Monday of each month at Marsden Road Health and Wellbeing Centre, already has more than 30 members.

Each session includes guest speakers and activities, as well as providing a place for people to access information and share their experiences of the condition with others.

“The most important thing is breaking down social isolation, because arthritis can be very socially isolating,” said Jeffrey. “It’s about meeting people and having the support of people who understand what it’s like.”

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Jeffrey was invited to meet the MP at her South Shields office, and she has since committed to becoming an Arthritis Champion, campaigning for the condition at a national level.

“Emma was really supportive, and she’s hoping to come along to the next group,” Jeffrey said. “She’s going to become an Arthritis Champion, which means she will sign up with the charity and become active in the arthritis world.

“To have that local support is great, but that fact that she’s becoming involved nationally is really important.”

Ms Lewell-Buck commented: “It’s great for the area to see something like this happening for people who are struggling.

“I want to give a big shout out to Jeff for all the hard work he has put into setting this group up and plugging what is obviously a much needed service in our area.”

The next Versus Arthritis group will be held on Monday, August 12 from 10am - 12pm.