by Sue Brown, CEO ARMA

Happy New Year to all our readers. The start of the new year is a time to reflect on our successes in 2019 and to look forward to what can be done in 2020.

Some of my highlights from 2019 were the annual lecture on mental health and MSK, our roundtables on pain and on mental health and our webinars. The webinars have been very popular with thousands of people watching them live or in recording.

It was the final webinar in December that highlighted something about MSK health that we need to address in the coming year. The topic was care and support planning for MSK – it was an excellent practical session that I recommend to anyone who missed it. Year of Care and Versus Arthritis looked at how care and support planning (CSP) might be used for people with MSK conditions and found it was beneficial for both patients and healthcare professionals.

However, when a practice which had already implemented CSP for other conditions decided to offer it to people with MSK conditions they found that many of them had already been through the process as they also had other long-term conditions. Sadly, although CSP is supposed to include everything which is important to the person, MSK was not included in any of these plans. It seems that unless it is explicitly included, neither doctor nor patient will see an MSK condition as worth mentioning in the conversation. Yet again MSK health gets a lower priority than we at ARMA think it merits.

In December I attended a discussion about bone health by the Royal Osteoporosis Society. The closing words of the event were the need for people to understand that “bone health is as important as heart health.” That is so true, and not just in relation to osteoporosis. The ability to move, to remain socially engaged, to shop and prepare healthy food are essentials for long term health.

Every healthcare practitioner from whatever specialty needs to understand the importance of MSK and of pain to their patients’ ability to manage (and prevent) other long-term conditions. We will continue to press this point until it is inconceivable that a CSP conversation would not include a discussion of MSK pain and mobility. Until it is unthinkable for a local NHS body to plan for their population without thinking about their MSK health – MSK in the broadest sense, not just how to get hip and knee waiting times down (important though that is).

This vision will guide ARMA’s work in 2020. I know that you, the readers of this newsletter, are in a good position to help this. In 2019 I have met many people who have been inspired by ARMA’s work to do something – to ask their IAPT service to include IAPT-MSK Pain; to discuss MSK health with their social prescribing service; to look at introducing MSK into care and support planning; or to ask every person with an MSK condition about the impact on mood and quality of life. I hope that you will all resolve to join them and do one small thing in 2020.

Together we must say loud and clear: MSK health is as important as heart health.

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