This is a category taken from the full feed of Musculoskeletal and Arthritis news provided by ARMA's members.

CEO Update

Cannon Hill parkrun event, Dec 2011, credit to Paul Holloway.

About a year ago I joined parkrun and I still have the enthusiasm of a new convert. It’s a great way to start the weekend, running in a park with about 300 other people, improving your MSK health as you go, and then coffee and a chat after. So I was delighted to hear that parkrun UK and the Royal College of GPs have launched an initiative encouraging GP practices to become ‘parkrun practices’. GPs in this film talk about why they take part in parkrun and suggest it to patients. The potential benefits of getting patients involved – running walking or even just volunteering – are enormous. No cost to the patient or the NHS. It got me thinking about how the NHS still undervalues the voluntary sector.

A lot has been written about the difficulties of NHS and voluntary sector working effectively together: the different cultures, assumptions and ways of working. Lack of understanding on both sides can get in the way of realising the potential of joint working.

ARMA is in a perfect position to break down some of these barriers, as our membership includes both patient and professional organisations. I wonder what we can do to encourage MSK clinicians and services to maximise the value of the voluntary sector, whether it’s the contribution patient support organisations make, or the public health benefits of parkrun.

Patient organisations also provide a lot of support for clinicians. We know that diagnosing and referring patients with less common MSK diseases is difficult for GPs. Several ARMA members have produced information for primary care staff to help them identify people who need referral to a rheumatologist. To help GPs, and anyone who may be the first point of contact for a person with an MSK condition, we are highlighting these resources during the last week in July. Look out for the information about Less Common MSK Diseases Week on the ARMA website or at #ThinkRheum on twitter.

MSK conditions are complex and impact on all aspects of a person’s life. Living with a long-term condition will always involve a network of support, including healthcare but also family, community and voluntary organisations. The voluntary sector has a big role to play – everything from running to information for GPs.

Innovation, transformation, improvement; everyone is trying to change health services for the better from NHS England to ARMA and each of our members, from the top and the centre to the local and the frontline.

There is also a lot being written about this. Last month’s guest blog looked at a report from the innovation unit with the Health Foundation on spread of innovation in the NHS. This month I’ve been reading a report from the Kings Fund on transformation. The report, or at least the summary, is worth a read; even though the four examples are not MSK-related, the key messages are very relevant.

Transformation is about “shifting mindsets, changing relationships and re-distributing power”. It’s about building relationships, learning together and connecting. It’s about collaborating and co-creating, and for me that means with patients as well as with all parts of the health and care system. A lot of ARMA’s work is about supporting and enabling this kind of connection. Our MSK Knowledge Hub is taking off, with new resources being submitted almost daily. Discussions have begun on the forum and the more you use it, the more useful it will be.

Our MSK Networks project aims to link people locally and to support and inform those working on service improvement. Combined with the hub it aims to help join up improvement activities locally and support innovation and change. Anyone working on MSK improvement can join.

The Kings Fund report also talks about the importance of leadership and collective leadership skills. I am excited at the new MSK Champions programme from Arthritis Research UK to support MSK leaders and influencers. It looks like a programme that will be really valuable to the people who take part and to their local MSK services. There’s still just time to apply as the closing date is 17 June.

Transformational change, the Kings Fund concludes, needs our collective focus. Let’s harness the collective focus of the MSK community and see what we can achieve together.

As you read this, ARMA will be at the BSR Conference, launching our new MSK Knowledge Hub.

This will be a resource for everyone working on any aspect of MSK. The Hub will widen the ability of the MSK community to collaborate and share knowledge. Anyone can access the resources – why not take a look and see what’s already been posted? You can also register to post your own materials and to access the discussion forum. If you can’t find the discussion topic you want, let us know and we can create a channel for you. I am excited to see how the Hub will be used to increase collaboration.

ARMA members have just started to discuss our strategy for 2019 – 2021. Something said by the CEO of one of our members struck me as very true: “It feels as though we are at a tipping point.” MSK is rising up the agenda. The DWP, Health and Safety Executive, business, the insurance industry – everyone is beginning to realise the impact the MSK has on every aspect of society. The NHS has increasing numbers of initiatives looking to improve MSK services, and Public Health England’s new strategy for the first time includes a programme on MSK.

Opportunities are everywhere, which means ARMA faces a different challenge: to use them to best advantage. We are no longer knocking at the door, but deciding which doors to walk through to make the maximum difference for people with MSK conditions. Our strategy will be all about choices: How do we make sure nothing is forgotten? There is currently too little focus, for instance, on mental health or pain – two things that are important to everyone with an MSK condition. For which issues can we do more together than any of us could achieve alone? Where is collaboration most needed?

If, like me, you think this is an exciting challenge, then get involved and collaborate. Join the Hub; join our Network; make sure your organisation is a member of ARMA. Things in MSK are tipping. Together we can give the push that will tip them in the right direction.

There is so much going on in the world of MSK it is sometimes hard to know where to start. I am constantly reminded of the vast range of good practice that exists out there. In the last few weeks I have heard about all kinds of activity, from trialling health trainers for joint pain in community settings, to the development of a toolkit for good MSK health for mobile workers.

But how do people working locally to improve services know what they might be able to achieve? And more importantly, how do they know what to do to implement good practice? ARMA is all about joining people up – patients with professionals, statutory and voluntary sectors, research and practice. We are also about sharing knowledge across the whole MSK sector.

Our next webinar on Friday 6 April, takes things back to fundamentals: how to understand the need out there in your local population and use that to plan services and to think about prevention. Sign up if you haven’t already. It’s going to be a practical and interesting session. This one will have broad relevance for health, social care and public health sectors.

In a discussion about improving primary care pathways last week I heard someone say: “Initially we went about it the wrong way.” This is what people need to know – not just what to do, but also how (and how not) to do it. That’s one of the things ARMA is planning to do with our webinars over the next year. We’re going to commission a How to…. series, where people who have delivered initiatives that work explain how they went about creating the change, including the lessons they learned along the way. Let us know if you are aware of a service that would make a good example.

If you are working to improve MSK services, you may also like to join our MSK Network Project. By joining you will be linked in to others working in your local area, informed of new initiatives, evidence and good practice that may be useful to you. Every local system is different and serves a different population. But they all share some things in common, one of which will be high, and increasing, levels of musculoskeletal conditions. We are all living longer, working longer, so it’s in all our interests to make sure we maintain good MSK health and can access the prevention and treatment services we need, when we need them. Collaboration is the way to make this easier. Collaboration is what ARMA is all about.

Bringing knowledge together, bringing people together: those are the aims of ARMA’s clinical networks project. Bringing them together to improve the lives of people with MSK conditions, of course. That really sums up what ARMA is all about. We are about breaking down silos and professional boundaries, creating services which work in pathways, where multidisciplinary teams ensure people get the right support at the right time. We are about sharing knowledge and good practice so that professionals know what works and can replicate excellence in their local area.

The project is about to move into a new and exciting phase, with the launch of local networks and the on line MSK Knowledge Hub. The knowledge hub will include an on-line forum where people can share experience and learn from each other. Both this and the networks are a bit of a leap into the unknown. There isn’t a set programme or a set of measurable outputs. The point is to let local people take the lead and respond to their own priorities. We can provide some tools to help, but we can’t control what happens.

As someone who likes project plans, measurable outputs and KPIs, that makes me a bit nervous. But I think it is the right approach. This blog from the Kings Fund talks about change as “a messy, non-linear process. It is unpredictable and difficult to chart in absolutes or step-by-step project plans with a neat beginning, middle and end.” I hope the ARMA project will help those of you involved in the messy, unpredictable process of working to improve services to share ideas and enthusiasm, to find out what has worked elsewhere and why, and to connect with others who know things can be better.

Let’s celebrate the unpredictable, the creative and the messy in the interests of driving positive change. Look out for more details on the network on our website shortly and in the next newsletter.

Get involved: sign up to the network, join the hub and make a difference.

At the end of January, I had the pleasure of experiencing an ARMA lecture for the first time. The lecture itself was excellent. No surprises there as it was delivered by Dame Carol Black speaking on musculoskeletal conditions, disability and employment. If you missed it, you can see the slides and video on the ARMA website. Twitter discussion using #MSKatwork continued into the following days. Between this and the follow-up articles on the talk (such as this one by the CSP), the audience for our message was huge. Thanks to Arthritis Action for supporting a fantastic evening.

What can’t be shared online is the amazing atmosphere at the drinks reception. We had a diverse audience of ARMA members and key stakeholders: policy makers, NHS England, Public Health England, voluntary organisations, clinicians and commissioners. Discussion was lively and animated. Many people meeting each other for the first time, realising they had common ground and could work together. I overheard plans to work on joint projects and I have no doubt that some exciting work will result. I’m looking forward to future ARMA webinars on initiatives whose seeds were sown that evening.

You can see a gallery of photos from the event here, as part of the lecture page.

This is ARMA at its best – bringing together a diverse range of people and finding the common ground. It’s at the heart of what we do, and a key part of our plans for 2018.

Our new knowledge hub will be launched soon and include an on-line forum allowing collaboration between different stakeholders. Look out for news on how you can use this. Our STP networks project is about to begin and will connect people at a local level to enable local collaboration and improvement. Let us know if you would like to get involved.

Whether locally, online or at an event like the ARMA lecture, it’s when people with a different take on the same issue get together that magic happens.

Happy New Year to all our supporters.

Although it is hard to feel that it will be happy for the NHS as winter crisis stories filled the media. Everyone in Government including the Prime Minister was forced to apologise as routine operations were postponed to help cope with the pressure of emergencies. Ministers appeared in the media to argue that the moves were part of a planned response and therefore there was no “crisis”. Listening to the coverage I took a small crumb of comfort: again and again, when giving an example of the negative impact of delays, hip and knee operations were mentioned. I heard all the arguments we make about the importance of MSK conditions – the impact on patients in terms of pain, the fact people may have to give up work. This awareness of the effectiveness of surgery for MSK conditions can only help the work we are doing to combat increasing restrictions by CCGs. By commissioning an effective pathway of care, including preventive services, NHS money could be better spent enabling those who do need surgery to get it rapidly, and those who don’t to manage their conditions better and continue to live the life they want.

ARMA has some exciting plans for 2018 which should capitalise on the increasing awareness of musculoskeletal conditions. At the end of last year Public Health England published guidance on healthy ageing and MSK health. NHS England has a number of initiatives aimed at improving MSK services, and we are looking forward to working with the Department for Work and Pensions on increasing the numbers of people with MSK conditions who are able to work. ARMA will continue to ensure that our members are able to support these opportunities. I’ve already had one meeting with one of our members about how they can engage with our networks to improve services locally, and I am looking forward to many more in the weeks to come. Look out for our new MSK Knowledge Hub to be launched early this year, and the next in our webinar series coming soon.

Whilst the NHS is undoubtedly struggling with many pressures, there will also be positives in 2018. From Public Health England giving more profile to MSK to the work and health agenda making progress along with our ongoing partnership working with NHS England and a new Wales ARMA network, there are so many opportunities for improving services and the lives of people with MSK conditions. So, I wish you a happy and positive 2018, and look forward to working with many of you to realise that.

There are many reasons for organisations working in collaboration with others. Over the years I have worked to influence health and care policy I have seen many changes which could never have happened if organisations had not worked together on issues of common concern, even where opinions may differ on other issues.

Bone and Joint week 2017 in October showed how, with a bit of co-ordination, we can work together to speak louder than any one organisation alone. Bone and Joint Week is an international opportunity to raise awareness of issues related to all things musculoskeletal. It also contains days for arthritis, spinal, paediatric bone and joint conditions and osteoporosis. There was a lot of planned activity by different ARMA members.

ARMA co-ordinated social media activity to raise awareness of the week but also to amplify members own campaigns. NHS England and Public Health England got in on the act, publishing a blog post from ARMA Chair, Tony Woolf, to launch the week, and supporting the activity on twitter. By sharing our plans, ARMA enabled small organisations without much social media capacity to take part in celebrating the week and organisations with their own plans to reach a bigger audience. Everyone benefits from the increased impact.

We can see what a difference working together made. Compared with last year’s BJA week we saw around 30 times more reach, more people clicking through to our information, more retweets. But it doesn’t stop with one week. Across the whole year, ARMA will be working to enable our members to support each other and enabling increased debate and profile for musculoskeletal issues.

Why not get involved? Here are three things you can do:

Get involved – there’s strength in numbers.