No health without MSK health

“No health without MSK health”. Those were the words of our guest speaker at the ARMA AGM and they clearly struck a chord with members. They were on my mind last week when I attended a consultation meeting held by NHS England about the new ten-year plan for the NHS. At the moment MSK health doesn’t get as much profile as conditions such as mental health, cancer or cardiovascular. Not to downplay the importance of these conditions, but MSK health underpins all aspects of our ability to be independent and lead the active lives we want. We all know the cost to the NHS, to individuals and families, and to the economy is enormous.

The pain and limited mobility of MSK conditions also has a knock-on impact on other aspects of health – difficulty opening medication or food packaging; difficulty getting on the bus to shop for healthy food or attend appointments; difficulty carrying out all the self-care and self-management activities that enable us to manage other health conditions. Arthritis Research UK reports that by age 65 years, almost 5 out of 10 people with heart, lung or mental health problem also have a musculoskeletal condition. If you are struggling at home with your arthritis and you need to go into hospital for any reason, you are likely to need more support to return home as a result.

So why does MSK not get a higher profile? The answer is: at a local level it does. The majority of CCGs have MSK as a priority for service improvement locally. And at a national level NHS England has a plethora of relevant programmes and activity, it’s just they don’t all sit under the banner of a single MSK programme. By contrast, Public Health England has a new MSK programme which will be working on MSK initiatives and ensuring that MSK is embedded in other PHE work.

Wouldn’t it be great to see this all recognised with a profile in the ten-year plan? So as the NHS consults on the plan they will hear one message from ARMA members loud and clear: No health without MSK health.

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