Social prescribing – a vital role in MSK health

This month I have been working on a resource for social prescribing link workers which ARMA plans to publish in the autumn. It’s made me reflect on what a valuable role link workers can play in MSK health. We know that many people with MSK conditions need support with their mental health or have become lonely or isolated as result of their condition. Added to this they may have other conditions which are harder to manage as a result of their MSK health.

Link workers can help with all these issues. They have time to really listen to what matters to the person. Their job involves making connections, helping people to find a new sense of purpose, helping them to manage all the long-term conditions they might be living with, and recognising the pivotal role MSK health can play in this.

NHS England identifies a number of roles that link workers can play.

Making connections – Link workers build on what’s already there in local communities and work in partnership with other agencies. We want to make sure that link workers know about the many patient organisations that are part of ARMA so that they can connect people to their local and national services. They can also think about where there are gyms or other activity providers who are more welcoming to people who might find it difficult to take part.

Personal care and support planning – We know that many people with long term MSK conditions have a personalised care and support plan for another condition which does not mention their MSK condition at all. By ensuring that link workers know about the impact and MSK conditions can have, we can help link workers to ensure that their MSK condition is appropriately addressed in their care and support plans.

Recognising wider determinants of health – By supporting link workers to understand the impact of social determinants on MSK health, we can help them to address these and tackle health inequalities.

I think link workers should be seen as a vital part of the MSK health system. That’s why we have a speaker on social prescribing at our December conference. It’s why I think everyone involved in NHSE/I’s BestMSK Health Collaborative should be thinking about how to include social prescribing in their thinking.