Collaboration, prevention and community: opportunities in MSK

We are all aware of the increasingly desperate need to restore NHS services. Our patient member organisations tell us of the calls they are getting from people who can’t access the services they need. Private practitioners such as physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors report high levels of activity as those who can afford to pay for services, and their concerns about those who can’t afford to pay. Clearly this must be a priority, but how can we do this differently, not just pile pressure on an exhausted and depleted NHS workforce? We need a system wide approach, focused on collaboration, prevention and community.

The Chancellor’s budget last week talked of a faster than expected economic recovery. That’s not going to happen if we don’t have a healthy workforce, and with MSK one of the leading causes of days lost due to ill health, MSK services are vital to that recovery.

This can’t be done by addressing just joint replacement surgery, or even hospital care. The vast majority of people with MSK conditions will never need surgery or rheumatology. They need good primary and community services, self-management support and peer support through patient organisations.

So here are some of the things I think are needed to support the growing economy:

  • Reduction in waiting time for community MSK services
  • People with MSK conditions being supported effectively by social prescribing
  • IAPT services delivering the IAPT pain pathway
  • Recognition of the value of patient organisations in MSK services
  • Services planned across the whole system with equal weight given to the role of primary, community, secondary services and the voluntary sector.

All these and more are covered in the agenda of our conference on 6 December. Come and hear more about how you can be part of the solution. ARMA is producing resources to support all of these issues in the coming months. The Best MSK Health collaborative is shining a spotlight on the need for change and producing resources to help local leaders deliver that change.

MSK is getting a higher and higher profile. It needs to be higher still if it is to reflect its importance to the economy, communities and the NHS. There are reasons for optimism, opportunities we can grasp to keep this moving in the right direction.