What the NHS England Personalisation Plan means for people with arthritis

A doctor talking to a lady in her home.

On 31st January 2019 NHS England published Universal Personalised Care. This is an action plan which sets out their ambitions for the delivery of personalised care in England, and supports the NHS Long-Term Plan, which made personalised care a key priority for the NHS over the next ten years.

When we talk about personalised care and shared decision making, we mean healthcare professionals making decisions alongside people living with long term conditions. It involves identifying what is most important for each individual to enable them to live the life they want to live. We then want health and care services to be designed and co-ordinated around an individual’s needs.

Many people live with the painful and fluctuating symptoms of arthritis and musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions for decades. We know that these approaches can have a positive benefit for people with arthritis and are pleased they feature prominently in NHS England’s document.

In autumn 2018, the Versus Arthritis policy team ran a workshop, in partnership with NHS England, where a group of people living with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions discussed and considered the ambitions and implementation of making the NHS more personalised. This involved several group discussions where people with arthritis shared how they manage their condition, how it affects their daily life, and their experience of engaging with healthcare professionals.

Care planning is one element of personalised care. It centres on a conversation between the person with a long-term condition and a healthcare professional. It includes the development of goals and actions which are recorded and shared. A good example of how care planning works in practice is the Year of Care Partnership, a programme that delivers care and support planning to people with MSK conditions. Evidence from the programme shows that care planning is helpful for people for MSK conditions and is revealing a large amount of unmet need.

However, our research (Care Planning and MSK Health PDF, 1.46 MB) has shown that only 12% of people with MSK conditions currently have a care plan. We want to work with NHS England so that more people with musculoskeletal conditions can benefit from this approach.

Training of healthcare professionals is also key to ensuring more people can benefit from care and support planning and shared decision making. NHS England’s plan makes a number of commitments to support training for GPs and other professionals; including plans to expand of their shared decision making programme, which develops decision support tools and e-learning resources.

The Universal Personalised Care action plan also talked about needing to improve the quality of data collected. We want NHS Digital to gather more information to support people with arthritis, for example capturing how many people with arthritis and MSK conditions have access to a care plan.

We will continue to work with NHS England to make sure their commitments in Universal Personalised Care can support our community.