What if... MSK was higher up the health agenda? | Sue Brown

Sue Brown

October 12-19 is Bone and Joint Week. Here, Sue Brown, chief executive of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance, gives insight into how a MSK health condition can develop, how it could have been avoided and the knock-on effect of the condition on the health service. MSK needs to be moved up the healthcare agenda.

What if?

12 October, World Arthritis Day, marks the start of Bone and Joint Week, an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of lifelong musculoskeletal (MSK) health. MSK health is of fundamental importance to all of us, including every single NHS provider.

Why do I say this? Let’s imagine Gladys. She’s 73, widowed and living alone. Her knee pain restricts her mobility but her CCG says she has to lose some weight before she can have her knee replaced. She keeps as active as she can but the pain gets her down sometimes.

Gladys develops a health condition, completely unrelated to her arthritis. She is admitted to hospital and treatment goes well. But Gladys is surprised to find that what she thought was a fairly short stay in hospital has had a big impact on her mobility. When she tries to stand, she finds the pain in her knee has worsened. She’s worried about how she will cope at home and that worry makes her pain feel worse. She says she can’t go home without help. Social services say it will take them a while to put in place a suitable package of support.

What if?

What if Gladys had already had her knee replaced and wasn’t experiencing the pain she is now?

What if Gladys had been encouraged to do exercise to maintain her mobility and flexibility?

What if she’d been given peer support or information about managing pain?

What if Gladys had been more active when she was younger?

What if Gladys had been given support to lose weight when it first started to be a problem 10 years ago when her husband died?

If Gladys had gone home when she should, the bed would have been available for other patients. Staff at the hospital, in social services, community services and Gladys’ GP would not have spent time working out how to get Gladys home safely. Meetings, letters, phone calls, they all felt this was important work, making a difference to Gladys’ life. They were right, in the circumstances. But had those circumstances been different, how much time could have been saved.

The failure to support Gladys’ MSK health has a knock-on cost to every part of the health and care system that has contact with Gladys. Because our MSK health underpins every aspect of our ability to live independent healthy lives. It is the fundamental bedrock of our health and it should be the bedrock of our health and care system.

This Bone and Joint Week; what can you do to move MSK health up the agenda?

What if we all did something?

You can support Bone and Joint Week 2019 by following the campaigns of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance - ARMA (Twitter: @WeAreARMA) and its members, and join the conversation using #BoneJointWeek to learn more about good bone, joint and muscle health.

Sue Brown is chief executive of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA). You can follow her on Twitter @SueBrownSB

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