The AHSN NENC Musculoskeletal Health Programme was established to address regional priorities in addition to contributing to the national agenda for Musculoskeletal health care improvement.

The NHS White paper published in February 2021 aims to begin to break down some of the boundaries in the NHS and address the need for Musculoskeletal (MSK) leadership across all levels of the system. The MSK Best Health Programme launched shortly after the white paper publication supports those aims. The programme covers ten workstreams including spinal services, primary and community MSK provision, Communications and Developing MSK networks and supporting long term MSK conditions.

The NHS Long term plan in the context of MSK health and care sets out a vision of a sustainable and efficient NHS recognising the growing prevalence of MSK conditions. These conditions impact physical and mental health services, employment, link to obesity and increased physical inactivity.

The policy is promoting the integration of social care, mental health & MSK services, and streamlining a patient’s journey through the system. This aim closely aligns with the ICS priorities.


The North East and North Cumbria reported higher than average long term MSK problems in 2019. The England average of long term reported MSK issues was 17.0%, compared to the NENC 22.5% (R18.6-23.8). The North East and North Cumbria are also opioid outliers. This issue has been partly addressed with the Campaign to Reduce Opioid Prescription (CROP) project, to support the reduction of opioid prescriptions, however for the progress to be sustained, it will need ongoing support of services in the community. Although life expectancy has increased, people are living longer with poorer health. MSK health is one of the first lines of defence to maintain cardiovascular and mental health, allowing people to stay active, connected, resilient, financially secure to allow the maintenance of purpose and meaning in their lives. Pain is a big inhibitor to physical activity.


Delivery in the NENC

The AHSN NENC is engaging with stakeholders to understand the MSK landscape across the regions, and in doing so, becoming familiar with the challenges and obstacles that MSK healthcare professionals experience. The AHSN NENC in collaboration with the Applied Research Collaborative are facilitating the establishment of a North East North Cumbria Pain and Spinal pain Community of Practise, who come together quarterly.

The aim of the Community is to promote good evidenced practice, share learnings, shape and inform regional pathways and collaborate with each other, empowering the MSK leaders at every level. It is made up of AHP’s and nurses at various touchpoints on the chronic and spinal pathways. This community facilitates the creation of contacts across the region and nationally to support the NHS and ICS aims.


Programme objectives
  • To understand the MSK landscape across the regions. To be familiar with the challenges and obstacles that MSK healthcare professionals experience and share their strengths and solutions.
  • To create a network of contacts across the region and nationally to support the NHS and ICS aims.
  • To identify innovations that will support the aims of the NHS White paper, Best MSK health and align with ICS priorities.
  • Promote and scale new innovations through the network.
  • To empower clinicians across the pathways to be MSK leaders.



In February 2021, a regional back pain event was held to spread awareness of the issues around back pain and opioids, as well as increasing the adoption of the spinal pathway in the region.


The AHSN NENC have created a NHS Futures Platform to support the work of the pain and spinal pathway community of practise. If you would like to be invited to the platform, please contact [email protected] or request an invitation via Pain and Spinal Pathway Community of Practice North East and North Cumbria (NENC) – FutureNHS Collaboration Platform