Stop the MSK health ripples spreading

To mark World Arthritis Day tomorrow and the start of Bone and Joint Week, the CEO of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) explains why it is important raise awareness of the importance of lifelong musculoskeletal (MSK) health.

MSK health is of fundamental importance to the whole of the NHS.

Why do I say that?  Because MSK conditions are the largest cause of years lived with disability in the UK, affecting some 18 million people. The impact on people who experience pain, lack of mobility and the associated depression is huge. The impact on the NHS is often underestimated.

We all know about the costs of treatment for MSK conditions, GP visits, and prescriptions for pain. But the costs are wider than that. Many of those with an MSK condition have other long term conditions. Managing those conditions becomes so much harder if you also have an MSK condition. Arthritic fingers struggle to open medication and prepare healthy food. Painful joints will make exercise or going home after an operation harder. Lack of mobility can lead to depression, isolation, loneliness.

The ripples of poor MSK health spread out to touch every part of a person’s life and every contact they make with health services.

We can stop the ripples spreading, but we all need to play our part. There are lots of actions in the NHS Long Term Plan which will help to deliver this. The introduction of First Contact MSK Practitioners will enable people with MSK conditions to rapidly access good advice and referral to the right person first time. Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and Primary Care Networks working together to provide more integrated services including mental health, community, and social care working together. The high prevalence of MSK conditions means we need support available at every level. The development of social prescribing and the introduction of IAPT for MSK pain will also widen the options and make it more likely support is available to meet individual needs.

Individual clinicians have a role to make sure the signs of less common MSK conditions are recognised early and that people are also asked about their psychological wellbeing. Good shared decision making is important as well as ensuring people are aware of self-management and support available from patient groups.

There are also big opportunities if we can get prevention right, and the Green Paper Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s rightly gives a high priority to MSK prevention. All of us can take steps to maintain our own MSK health.

This Bone and Joint Week my challenge to you is – what’s your role? What will you do to stop the ripples spreading?

You can support Bone and Joint Week 2019 by visiting the ARMA website and accessing the information and resources designed to support improved MSK health, including practical webinars, prevention strategies and a core MSK offer design to support NHS Long Term Plan priorities.

You can also follow the campaigns of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance – ARMA and its members on Twitter @WeAreARMA. Join the conversation using #BoneJointWeek.

Sue Brown

Sue is the CEO of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA), a role which she took up in February 2017.

ARMA is an umbrella body representing the breadth of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions and professions. Its vision is that the MSK health of the population is promoted throughout life and that everyone with MSK conditions receives appropriate, high quality interventions to promote their health and well-being in a timely manner.

Sue has over 20 years’ experience of policy work in health and social care. Before joining ARMA, she was Head of Public Policy at deafblind charity Sense and Vice-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance and previously worked for Mind. Sue is also a trustee of VoiceAbility.

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