Keele experts help develop tools to support treatment for people with musculoskeletal conditions

Keele University experts have contributed to the design of a suite of support tools to help people with back, shoulder, hip and knee pain, in partnership with Versus Arthritis.

A team from Primary Care Centre Versus Arthritis at Keele University have helped to create a range of decision support tools to help people who are living with painful musculoskeletal conditions to make informed choices about their treatments. The tools, which have been endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, are a set of questions and answers, which are used together with a healthcare professional to support a conversation about treatment, whilst also considering the day-to-day lives of patients.

As part of the NHS England-funded project, the group summarised the current evidence and national guidance for treatment of each condition, as well as providing their expertise regarding the management of painful musculoskeletal conditions and shared decision making between healthcare professionals and their patients.

The tools were co-designed by an Expert Advisory Group, chaired by Versus Arthritis, which included people with pain or arthritis, general practitioners, rheumatologists, physiotherapists, policymakers, academics and decision support experts.

Professor Danielle van der Windt, Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, said: “During the pandemic, it has been more difficult for people with musculoskeletal pain to access healthcare, and most consultations with GPs and physiotherapists are still conducted remotely through video or by telephone.

“The decision support tools have been developed to encourage patients, to offer brief information regarding different self-management, treatment and referral options, and to help them prepare for their consultation. The tools can support people during their conversations with their GP or physiotherapist when making decisions regarding management of their pain.”

Dr Benjamin Ellis, Senior Clinical Policy Adviser at Versus Arthritis who led this project, said: “Almost 19 million people in the UK live with the pain and disability of musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and back pain. Funded by NHS England, these decision support tools will empower people with these conditions to work with their healthcare professionals to receive the support they want and need. I’m really delighted we were able to partner with people with arthritis, clinicians and the team at Keele to create these tools.”