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  • The Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) is the umbrella body for the arthritis and musculoskeletal community in the UK, and our mission is to transform the quality of life of people with musculoskeletal conditions. We have 33 member organisations ranging from specialised support groups for rare diseases to major research charities and national professional bodies.

MSK Networks Project

Musculoskeletal support professionals in the community

by Dr Rob Hampton, GP and Occupational Physician

Across the world, chronic musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory disorders and common regional conditions such as back, neck, shoulder, hip and knee pain now represent the single greatest cause of years lived with disability 1. When measuring their negative impact on employment, self-reported wellbeing and day-to-day function, chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions are every bit as invasive as other chronic conditions such as heart failure, diabetes and COPD. People with chronic conditions increasingly have access to dedicated, usually nurse-led services that provide support with exacerbations and link the patient to GP and secondary care when required. Even the traditional ‘Cinderella’ conditions of dementia and mental health now benefit from improved recognition and coordinated care. I would argue that chronic musculoskeletal conditions are now the true Cinderella in the UK, a fact recognised by NHS England through their partnership with the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) called the MSK Knowledge Network. Its focus is on bringing knowledge and people together to improve outcomes for people with MSK conditions in England.

There are several projects that show the value of community-based support for people with musculoskeletal problems. The Joint Pain Advisor pilot in South London 2 is an example of the power of professional support to help people adapt to chronic pain problems and reduce demands on healthcare resources, particularly GPs. The power to encourage self-care and de-medicalise chronic musculoskeletal pain have been cornerstones of pioneering services such as the Back Pain Programme in South Tees 3 and the Pain to Prospects Programme in Leicester 4. These services win awards, are reproducible beyond the pilot phases and could provide a level of support to the people with chronic musculoskeletal conditions similar to that for conditions such as heart failure, diabetes and COPD. My impression is that the biopsychosocial approach required is just ‘not medical enough’ to receive CCG funding but ‘too medical’ to attract financing from the social or welfare sector.

Will the evolution of Primary Care Networks announced in January 2019 through the NHS long-term plan provide the right environment for ongoing community based musculoskeletal support? Let’s hope so. If ARMA take up this cause with NHS England, progress can be made.

References:

  1. Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 Collaborators. (2015) Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet 386:743–800. 
  2. A Walker, R Williams, F Sibley, D Stamp, A Carter, M Hurley. (2017) Improving access to better care for people with knee and/or hip pain: service evaluation of allied health professional‐led primary care. Musculoskeletal Care. https://doi.org/10.1002/msc.1189
  3. NHS England (2017) National Low Back and Radicular Pain Pathway 2017, Together with Implementation Guide http://www.ukssb.com/pages/Improving-Spinal-Care-Project/National-Backpain-Pathway.html. (accessed January 2019).
  4. Hampton R. (2013) From Pain to Prospects? – helping people on welfare benefits with chronic pain. Pain News. 2013;11(4):227 –230.

Since the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) was published on 7 January 2019 a new document, Investment and evolution: A five-year framework for GP contract reform to implement The NHS Long Term Plan, has been released which includes the roll out of the Primary Care Networks model. Here’s a summary of the relevant MSK elements.

The publication covers the following areas:

  • Addressing the workforce shortfall
  • Solving Indemnity Costs
  • Improving the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF)
  • Introducing the Network Contract DES
  • Going ‘digital-first’ and improving access
  • Delivering new network services
  • Guaranteeing investment
  • Supporting research and testing future contract changes
  • Schedule of future contract changes and development work

Workforce

Workforce is identified as the priority for primary care. Various steps are set out to enable recruitment of an additional 5,000 doctors and 1,000 nurses.

There is a reimbursement scheme for additional roles to enable increased multi-disciplinary teams. Five roles are listed as being eligible for reimbursement:

  • clinical pharmacists,
  • social prescribing link workers,
  • physician associates,
  • first contact physiotherapists
  • first contact community paramedic.

ARMA has raised with NHSE the fact that the role is First Contact Practitioner, not physiotherapist. If reimbursement is only available for physiotherapists in the role, we are concerned this will mean other professional training does not see FCP as something worth investing in, so reducing a potential source of suitable FCPs. This would be counterproductive in the context of a measure designed to address a workforce shortfall.

Primary Care Networks

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are intended to bridge the divide between primary and community services. They focus on provision of services, not on commissioning. They will become the foundation of integration to deliver the ‘triple integration’ of primary and specialist care, physical and mental health services, and health with social care.

They are about primary care practices contracting to work together. A PCN should cover a population of around 50,000 patients (minimum 30,000) so that it is large enough to support a multidisciplinary team.

Networks will have a network agreement. Delivery will require collaborative working by members. Members of a network will be GP practices plus specialist, physical and mental health services and secondary care in the area.

Each PCN must have a clinical director and one lead practice which receives the funding for the network. NHS England will provide a range of support to PCNs.

Delivering new network services

There will be seven service specifications to be delivered in 2019/20:

  1. Structured Medications Review and Optimisation;
  2. Enhanced Health in Care Homes, to implement the vanguard model;
  3. Anticipatory Care requirements for high need patients typically experiencing several long term conditions, joint with community services;
  4. Personalised Care to implement the NHS Comprehensive Model;
  5. Supporting Early Cancer Diagnosis;
  6. CVD Prevention and Diagnosis; and
  7. Tackling Neighbourhood Inequalities.

Anticipatory care – Based on individual needs and choices, under the Anticipatory Care Service, people identified as having the greatest risks and needs will be offered targeted support for both their physical and mental health needs, which include musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular disease, dementia and frailty. Typically, this involves a structured programme of proactive care and support in which patients with multi-morbidities will have greater support– including longer GP consultations where appropriate – from the wider multidisciplinary team.

For more detail see the full document.

You can now see the video from our recent webinar in the Musculoskeletal Networks series:
Commissioning for Quality: Community-based Rheumatology Service

Presented by Erica Gould, Nurse Consultant at Community Rheumatology Service Modality Partnership, the webinar outlines how a community-based rheumatology service can provide effective management of rheumatology patients, with benefits both to the patients and the usage of clinical resources.

Findings from the pilot study demonstrated that patients requiring disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS) can easily be managed in a community setting. A community setting with provision of the specialist skills provides patients with local, more convenient care and reduced disengagement. It also optimised the use of local resources – for example, moving some of the routine follow-up activity for rheumatology patients (such as drug monitoring) would undercut the tariff by 30%.

Visit the ARMA Webinars page to watch the presentation and discussion.

 

The video of the latest webinar in the MSK Webinar Series is up on our site.

You now can watch “Focus on Musculoskeletal Health: developing and implementing a JSNA chapter” which uses the example of the London Borough of Ealing and NHS Ealing CCG to outline the development of the JSNA chapter, and show why this is important for improving the musculoskeletal health of a local population.

You can see this on our Webinar page, as well as recordings of past webinars from the MSK series, including:

  •     Sport, Exercise, Training and Delivery in the NHS
  •     Self-care workforce skills
  •     Joint Pain Advisor Webinar
  •     Getting It Right First Time Masterclass
  •     Clinical Networks: Transforming MSK Care
  •     Physiotherapy in Primary Care
  •     The Musculoskeletal Health Questionnaire
  •     New models of MSK Masterclass
  •     Work & Health MSK Webinar