The Nuffield Foundation and Versus Arthritis are committing £1.94 million of funding to six new research projects including ELSA, that aim to improve the well-being and working lives of people with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions.
More than 20 million people, around a third of the UK population, have an MSK condition such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia and rarer conditions such as lupus. They are the greatest cause of pain and disability in the UK, affecting people’s ability to work, care for a family, and live independently.
MSK conditions also have a profound impact on society and the economy, leading to 28.4 million lost working days a year and accounting for the third largest area of NHS programme spending.
The new research grants are the second round of awards from the Foundation’s Oliver Bird Fund, which is dedicated to improving the lives of people with MSK conditions.
The charity Versus Arthritis, which is contributing £250,000, is calling for more research into addressing MSK health inequalities by striving for better MSK health and care at home, in leisure, at work and in communities under the Living Well ambition in the charity’s research strategy. These projects will deliver against this ambition, as well as the Person-focussed principle of ensuring people with arthritis are active partners in research.
The partnership between Versus Arthritis and the Nuffield Foundation will put lived experience at the heart of the six projects, which are being carried out in five universities. Versus Arthritis’ ‘Research Partners’ - people living with MSK conditions – have been involved in selection of the projects. People living with MSK conditions will advise across the lifetime of the projects, from helping to develop tools and interventions to guiding researchers’ understanding of the needs of underserved communities. This will ensure that the research is highly relevant to real-world needs and issues.
The ELSA study that is being funded will look at data on social prescriptions for 150,000 patients. The data will highlight the challenges facing people with MSK conditions, for example their mental health and ability to work, and explore ‘quality of life’ factors including the impact of family, patterns in racial and ethnic minority groups, and the pandemic.
The research will also study the effects of social prescribing on the mental health and well-being of people with MSK conditions and examine how referrals to social prescribing for MSK conditions vary by age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. This evidence could inform targeting to improve care for patients.