Our challenge is to deliver improved care

The chairman of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) explains the importance of a planned series of regional events aimed at transforming MSK care and patient outcomes:

What patients with MSK conditions need is the right treatment, at the right time, in the right place.

Sounds simple, but anyone who works in the NHS knows that in practice it is far from simple. The ARMA and NHS England clinical networks project aims to look at why this is so difficult and what can be done to overcome the barriers.

The cost of failure is enormous. There is the cost to health services – the NHS spends £5billion a year treating MSK conditions – and they account for the biggest part of the workload of the NHS, 40% of which is due to potentially preventable risk factors.

Prevalence rises with age, so we know this cost will increase as the population ages.

ARMA members will testify to the human cost as well; the pain and physical disability. Living in chronic pain can lead to depression, which is four times more common for those people with persistent pain than without. The individual impact includes lost work, inability to play a role in family or community, loss of the lifestyle people previously enjoyed as well as the impact on family and carers. It all adds up to a major impact on people’s lives.

The challenge for the NHS is to provide the integrated care pathways that enable people to access the right treatment. This might be rapid access to diagnosis and specialist treatment for inflammatory arthritis with good integration between primary and secondary care. It might be support with exercise and self-management for someone with osteoarthritis, or an understanding of how to prevent recurrence of back pain.

Achieving consistent, evidence based, clinical pathways is challenging. The sheer number and variety of professionals providing MSK care, the breadth and complexity of conditions requires a coordinated approach to service improvement.

ARMA has identified 9 stakeholders who need to work in partnership, including patients, care coordinators, primary and community care professionals, consultants and secondary care clinicians, Allied Health Professionals, social care professionals, CCG representatives, Local authority/ HWB representatives and public health representatives.

This is where the ARMA/NHS England regional events come in. They will bring together stakeholders from the groups listed above, facilitating a shared understanding of the value of working together.

They will share best practice examples which are working in the reality of the current health and care system. Most important of all, they will look at how participants can take action after the events to implement high impact improvements.

So, if you want to contribute to improving the quality of life of patients with MSK conditions and to create musculoskeletal services that are appropriate, accessible and responsive to need, please register for an event today.  They will be hosted in;

There may be further regional events delivered in the North West and the South of England during April 2017 which will be confirmed at a later date.

Professor Anthony Woolf

Professor Anthony Woolf is Chair of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA).

He is Honorary Professor of Rheumatology, University of Exeter Medical School, and Plymouth Peninsula Medical and Dental College, and Clinical Director of the NHS National Institute of Health Research Clinical Research Network Southwest Peninsula.

He is involved in various initiatives to raise awareness of the impact of musculoskeletal conditions and priority for education, prevention, treatment and research at a national, European and global level.