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Physiotherapists have a key role to play in helping NHS England to monitor musculoskeletal (MSK) problems affecting people in the UK as part of the organisation's efforts to better understand multimorbidity.
This is the view of Arthritis Research UK, which has published a new report calling for musculoskeletal issues to be included in NHS England's future work to address multimorbidity - the state where more than one health condition is increasing a patient's risk of premature death.
Arthritis Research UK found that there are approximately ten million people in the UK living with a musculoskeletal condition, such as arthritis, but many also have other health problems, which could shorten their lives.
For example, of the people aged 45 and over with long-term health conditions, around one-third suffer from arthritis. Among over-65s, arthritis affects approximately half of those with heart, lung and mental health conditions.
What's more, fellow musculoskeletal illness osteoarthritis affects 80 per cent of people with both physical and mental long-term health problems, ranging from high blood pressure to heart disease and even depression.
Arthritis Research UK believes that MSK conditions are currently often overlooked by healthcare bodies when they are assessing multimorbidity, but it wants to see these included in future plans and research partners such as the National Institute for Health Research also taking these more seriously.
With this in mind, physiotherapists could provide NHS England with valuable insights into the links and correlations between musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis and other long-term illnesses, as well as helping to find ways to ease the symptoms of these health problems through physiotherapy exercises.
Professor Peter Kay, national clinical director of MSK Services at NHS England, told the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy: "We must work across systems to ensure we have the appropriate data collected and available to understand the numbers and requirements of people living with multiple long-term conditions."
Written by Mathew Horton
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