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Meet the team: MSK Q Community Health Champions


  • Helen Duffy - Head of NHS Engagements, Keele University
  • Laura Campbell - IAU Project Support
  • Dr Louise Warburton - GP Clinical Champion
  • Dr Simon Somerville - GP Clinical Champion
  • Dr Andrew Finney - Nurse Clinical Champion
  • Dr Jonathan Quicke - Physio Clinical Champion
  • Stephanie Egleston - Public Health, Telford Council
  • Dr Vince Cooper - GP Clinical Champion
  • Tina Hadley Barrows - Physio Clinical Champion
  • Nina White - Head of Transformation, Shropshire CCG

Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are common and patients report that their conditions are not recognised as debilitating and they are not receiving the support needed. Millions of people are limited by pain, stiffness and fatigue caused by MSK conditions, such as arthritis or back pain. All aspects of everyday life are affected including function, independence and mental health, impacting on overall quality of life.

MSK conditions are the leading cause of years lived with disability (YLDs) and third largest cause of disbaility adjusted life years (DALYs) in the UK. (Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 310 diseases and injuries, 1990-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. (2016)

The prevalence of MSK conditions is increasing due to an aging population and rising levels of obesity and physical inactivity. MSK conditions and their management should be everyone’s business, creating a platform on which to explore the potential of non-clinical champions, supporting care pathways and self management, elevating pressures on primary care.  Building upon the PHE Making Every Contact Count (MECC) methodology we have yet to explore the role in which non-clinical champions can support self-management and effective access to MSK care pathways.


  • An approach to behaviour change that utilises the millions of day to day interactions that individuals have with others to support them in making positive changes to their physical and mental health and wellbeing
  • Enables the opportunistic delivery of consistent and concise healthy lifestyle information, enabling individuals to engage in conversations about their health

By effectively and efficiently mobilising research knowledge into healthcare practice, the Impact Accelerator Unit (IAU) at Keele University is dedicated to making a significant and lasting impact on both the quality of life and care of those with, or at risk of, arthritis and MSK conditions, as well as associated co-morbidities such as mental health. The IAU was created in 2016 in response to increasing demand for proactive support in implementing innovations emerging from the high quality research at the Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences.

High quality evidence based innovations from the IAU include: STarT Back – stratified care for low back pain; and JIGSAW-E – Joint Implementation of Osteoarthritis Guidelines across Western Europe. These provide case study innovations where the peer support concept (Communities of Practice) has been trialled and provides the foundation to move forward with a test bed for MSK health champions in primary care.

STarT Back provides a cost effective way for CCGs to stratify low back pain and ensure patients access the right treatment at the right time in line with NICE guidelines using an electronic template, high quality training and bespoke information. MECC for low back pain has been an output of this innovation.

JIGSAW-E provides clinicians with high quality resources to support patients with an enhanced self-management programme for Osteoarthritis. It is making a positive impact across the West Midlands bu giving clinicians the confidence to implement change and challenge pathways e.g. high rates of imaging and referral to Orthopaedics.

Both innovations support patient self-management for long term MSK conditions. To date this has been health care professional led but as the projects have developed, opportunities have presented to expand and develop the role of non-clinical staff and champions to promote a MECC approach. The NICE guidance on Community Engagement recommends recruiting community members “to plan and deliver health promotion activities and help address the wider determinants of health”. It describes both health champions and community champions as people able to inspire and motivate community members but also able to advocate for change and influence local organisations.

This proposal  would explore the potential of MSK health champion roles in the community, supporting the MECC concept of self-management for MSK long term conditions.

1) Create a Community Health Champion network, initially in the West Midlands. The network will provide peer to peer support for the champions and the space to share experience and learning – initially utilising two clear case studies outlined in point 2/3 below. The network will be led by MSK clinical champions from the IAU.

2) Develop a MECC low back pain tool and training for non-clinical champions, complementing the package already developed for health professionals.

3) Providing the champions with access to bespoke patient information for the conditions of Osteoarthritis and low back pain. This will include signposting opportunities to local support for patients.

4) Create strong network links between the community champions and local authorities and CCGs in their locality, embedding the role into MSK pathways. Champions will be skilled to deliver the core messages (outlined in points 2/3 above) to individuals in PPG groups in primary care, community groups, carers groups, patient groups and individual one to one opportunities with members of the public.

How you can contribute

  • It would be beneficial to gain insight into non-clinical support networks that are operating effectively to support the development of an MSK focused network.
  • To engage with MSK stakeholders and clinicians interested in understanding how a non-clinical champion role could fit into MSK pathways of care.
  • To recognise the challenge in expanding this to a national arena - could the Q Community support this roll out, or how would we influence policy or other key stakeholders such as ARMA/Arthritis Research UK etc.

Further information

mecc-factsheet (PDF, 234KB)

Reviewer feedback

This is a great project because…

This is a nice cross-system peer support project which has good scaling potential given the organisations involved and the link with an academic partner, which should enhance the opportunity to generate good quality insight. 

By the time of the event we encourage the project team to think more about…

Ensuring that the team builds on their record in PPI to ensure this doesn't become overly clinically led.  Think about how links with Q could further enhance the approach to sharing insights. 


  1. Guest

    Alison Trewhela 3 years, 5 months ago

    Have you heard of the Arthritis Research UK funded and supported evidence-based 'Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs' 12-week course?  Hopefully, this would be something that could be signposted to, as it helps people to self-manage for the long-term.  See more at and please do ask, if you want more info about our social enterprise projects.

    1. Guest

      Nicola Evans 3 years, 5 months ago

      Hi Alison


      Many thanks for your comment and the information you have provided. I hadn't heard of the Yoga for healthy lower backs but it is certainly something that I hope this project could link into. I will have a look at the website you have outlined



  2. Would this build upon the work Arthritis Research UK are undertaking around building a MSK champion network or sit as a separate piece of work?

    Escape-pain (Enabling Self-management and Coping
    with Arthritic Pain using Exercise) is another programme that is NICE endorsed and has an extensive robust evidence base. Arthritis Research UK is supporting its roll out in NENC AHSN and the Innovation Agency (NWC AHSN). Current thinking suggests that this will be part of the scale and spread National AHSN work streams from 2019.

    1. Guest

      Nicola Evans 3 years, 6 months ago

      Hi Jennifer

      Many thanks for your comments. We do hope to link in with ARUK and their MSK champions. They will be harnessing the health professionals within their champion network and we hope to compliment this with lay/non clinical individuals building an MSK network.

      Thank you for the information on ESCAPE Pain. We will be working with the West Midlands AHSN on the implementation of this programme across the region.

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