As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect us all, in one way or another, I have become more aware how self-management of my musculoskeletal condition is of paramount importance. I have made every effort to be as active as possible and taken care of my mental health too. Have I tapped into as many resources as possible? Probably not. However, my role as a Peer Support Worker within the Trust has given me many more opportunities to explore resources to help in my quest to be as self-sufficient as possible. Working alongside some highly dedicated practitioners has helped me no end. I am on a mission now to broadcast and highlight some invaluable resources that will benefit us all. Resources that might not be widely known or accessed by service users and carers in the normal run of events. I should like to ‘flag up’ one particular resource of extreme interest and importance, that from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy - found at www.csp.org.uk/conditions/managing-pain-home.

It is a guide to help people take practical steps at home to manage their joint, bone and muscle pain. With the majority of healthcare appointments taking place in the virtual world of telephone calls or video consultations this self-management resource offers advice, guidance and exercises to help with pain management. Covering nine body parts, it also considers physical and mental health and wellbeing and, very importantly, children’s bone, joint and muscle health. For each body site there is a suite of informative materials including exercises to follow, booklets for reference and videos. A very comprehensive asset to have at your fingertips.

A huge amount of effort is being exerted by many organisations and agencies to ensure that services can return to normality as quickly as possible, but in every walk of life we know this isn’t an easy task. Virtual consultations, very long treatment waiting lists and the inevitable economic constraints are taxing everybody. NHS England and NHS Improvement have produced a document in conjunction with, among others Versus Arthritis, Healthwatch and the Patient’s Association, that provides guidelines to stress the need for good communications between service providers and service users. Entitled “Good communication with patients waiting for care”, it outlines core principles for service providers to help deliver personalised, patient-centred communications.

With delays in appointments causing untold stress to users and providers alike, communicating difficult messages maybe difficult. Looking at communication barriers is another challenge. A few from a very long list that need careful consideration are sensory impairment, no or limited proficiency in the English language, physical/ mobility impairment, frail and elderly, learning disabilities and mental health conditions. So many facets have to be considered as we all prepare to try to return to a pre-Covid-19 way of life. That is why I will repeat a comment from an earlier blog: ‘there has never been a better time to become engaged and involved in helping to shape the future of health and social care provisions’. Being privileged to have so many opportunities to get involved as a patient with lived experience is both exciting and humbling. You may wish to read more from the “Good communication…” document mentioned; it’s informative. Try it at www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/site/52/2021/01/C0855-i-good-communication- with-patients-guidance-v2.pdf.

On the subject of communicating with patients, you may remember I previously mentioned a project being headed by Hannah Elliott, with Kay Stevenson, from the Musculoskeletal Interface Service at Haywood Hospital. The project aim is to explore the practicalities of writing clinical letters to patients with copies to their GP. This was borne out of a document prepared by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) entitled “Please, write to me”. Currently interface services across MPFT are trialling this new way of working with outpatient clinical letters being written directly to patients. This has been suggested as a ‘gold standard’ approach by a number of agencies, including the Professional Records Standards Body (PRSB). Both documents are quite lengthy but, when you have time, dip into them at www.aomrc.org.uk/reports-guidance/please-write-to-me-writing-outpatient-clinic-letters-to-patients-guidance and https://theprsb.org/standards/outpatientletterstandard.

To ensure every aspect of the project meets all legal requirements Carolyn Smallwood and Caitlyn Harvey from the Trust’s Legal team are heavily involved. Following the trial there will be feedback from the patients and clinicians involved with the view to roll out the process in the Interface services, if found appropriate.

The title of my blog is ‘Patient Voice Matters’ which it certainly does. There are so many initiatives being planned, trialled and actioned where patients have been front-and-centre that I am so privileged to be able to contribute to and witness the strength of the patient voice. Thank you to MPFT for giving me a platform to be heard.

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