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New and improved methods of managing Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis are benefitting people across Wales.

Wellness coaches, voucher schemes, group coaching and discounted gym memberships are just a few of the ways health boards are providing support.

The transformation across services aims to improve patient outcomes, better support those on waiting lists to manage their condition, and work toward equal access of care across Wales.

MSK conditions can cause severe long-term bone and joint pain and include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain and osteoporosis. Currently 18% of people in Wales suffer from Osteoporosis and 974,000 people in Wales are suffering from an MSK condition.

The Welsh Government is working on a variety of initiatives, aligned to ‘A Healthier Wales’, including earlier access to services, prehabilitation, digital tools for patients and links with community leisure groups.

These initiatives will work with people to build MSK health and slow down the progression of existing conditions. In addition, people on waiting lists will be supported to wait well and be emotionally and physically ready for surgery.

The Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan will announce tomorrow [Thursday 20 October] the launch of a Fracture Liaison Service Development and Quality Assurance Group. This task force will focus on creating consistent access to services aimed at preventing secondary fractures across Wales and helping health boards to develop and deliver new ways of working to support people.

Every health board in Wales is transforming services and the Wellness Improvement Service (WISE), run by Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board is one such example. Patients are offered wellness coaches to help support evidence-based lifestyle and behavioural changes to improve their physical and mental health, reduce symptoms and understand the root cause of their health challenge. This could include group coaching in community venues or virtually and social prescribing groups as well as vouchers to spend in local businesses via GetFitWales.

Cardiff & Vale University Health Board is working to deliver health care in local communities, by partnering with leisure centres to support people with arthritis to live well by offering discounted gym memberships.  The health board is also working with Swim Wales, to develop water-based activity programmes. The programmes will support people on orthopaedic waiting lists to escape pain and prepare them for surgery through self-guided exercises via an app.

Innovations like these are making a real difference to people living with MSK conditions. Results of the prehabilitation programme for people waiting for knee and hip replacement surgery at Betsi Cadwaladr and Swansea Bay University Health Boards have shown significant improvements in all outcome measures for participants with pain, with function and quality of life measures improving between 17%-69%.

Prevention and transformation are two key levers in the Welsh Government’s plan for planned care recovery to help reduce waiting times and deliver more sustainable services in the future.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan said:

It is fantastic to see the wide range of care available to those suffering with musculoskeletal conditions. We know the physical pain MSK conditions can have as well as a debilitating effect on mental health and wellbeing, these services will make a real difference for people living and managing these conditions and their families.

MSK health is influenceable and we can improve it by transforming services to focus on prevention and building sustainability in the system. Creating systemic change is never an easy task but by transforming the services we offer now whilst bringing down waiting lists is vital if we want to stop the waiting list growing in the future and help people to live healthier lives.