The vital role of good MSK services

One thing I have been really struck by since starting this role is just how much musculoskeletal conditions impact across the breadth of a person’s life, and just how much unaddressed MSK conditions impact other parts of health services.

This month’s blog highlights how MSK conditions impact the ability of NHS staff to do their jobs. ARMA members Arthritis Research UK recently published a report on Musculoskeletal Conditions and Multimorbidity, which highlights how MSK conditions make dealing with other long-term conditions that much harder. A patient survey by Arthritis Care found an enormous hidden impact of arthritis on mental well-being. And a study of unmet needs amongst older people found that unmet need for mobility, something which MSK conditions impact on significantly, was seen as being as important, if not more important, as meeting basic needs of daily living.

Given this evidence, you would think the NHS would make tackling MSK conditions, both prevention and prompt treatment, a big priority. The joint ARMA/NHS England events show the high level of interest amongst professionals locally to make it a priority. Unfortunately, elsewhere things are less positive. More and more CCGs are restricting access to highly effective treatments such as hip and knee replacements, and some rheumatology patients have to make special applications (individual funding requests) to get the treatment they need. We can all understand why cancer and mental health are priorities for NHS England. But many patients with these conditions will also have musculoskeletal conditions which make treatment and self-management more difficult. MSK can’t be addressed in a silo – it cuts across every aspect of health.

ARMA will continue to harness the excitement that exists at local level for better, more joined up MSK services. We will continue to support and promote good practice. I have begun to realise that this isn’t just important for MSK services. It’s vital for the health of our population and the sustainability of our health services.