As I sat down to write this, NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens was on the radio talking about plans to increase the ability of patients to see pharmacists and physios rather than a GP as their first point of contact in the NHS. Ensuring we have the right workforce to meet the growing health needs of an ageing population is a real challenge. ARMA’s different professional members have a lot to contribute, as I discovered when I spent a day at the Royal College of Chiropractors conference.

Not all speakers at the conference were chiropractors. A rheumatologist spoke about the way chiropractors are often important partners in patient’s pathways for both diagnosis and management. A bold statement from another speaker, a physiotherapist: “chiropractors can help to save the NHS”. The chiropractors speaking all focused on how to improve practice, to increase skills in psychological and social aspects of health, taking a public health approach and making every contact count. It was the non-chiropractor speakers who challenged the delegates to step up to a leadership role. Based on my conversations in the breaks, I think there were plenty of delegates ready to rise to that challenge.

As CEO of an alliance, this is the sort of thing I love. Not professional rivalry (which I see too often) but professional collaboration. Yes, take a pride in your own skills and training, but do so with an understanding of what you have to offer to a multidisciplinary team. As the musculoskeletal patient population gets older, more complex and more likely to have other co-existing long-term conditions, no profession can act alone. The best surgeon can’t get good patient outcomes if rehabilitation is poor. The best rheumatologist can do nothing for the patient who wasn’t referred because no-one recognised the severity of their condition. Health is a system, not isolated episodes of care.

ARMA members include a whole range of professions who could contribute to the musculoskeletal health of the nation. The NHS Long-term plan presents us all with an opportunity. Benjamin Ellis of Versus Arthritis, another rheumatologist speaker at the conference said: “If the MSK community doesn’t get on the bandwagon, it will go without us.” We need to get on that bandwagon, with pride in what we can all offer, together as a community. That’s exactly what ARMA is here to facilitate.

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