We wished to evaluate whether early arthritis clinics (EAC) contribute to the shortening of time between the onset of complaints and the moment that adequate therapy is started in patients with arthritis. We evaluated 212 patients with arthritis referred in 1993 to an EAC. A definite diagnosis could be made in 68% of the patients 2 weeks after referral. Arthritis persisted in a large majority of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and the time between disease onset and initiation of therapy could be reduced to +/-3 months. EAC are therefore helpful in achieving early effective treatment of arthritis.