12 September 2023

From Partner in Care to Lead Health Builder


Jamie Tulley

In Norman’s first blog piece he shared his story ‘From Patient to Partner’, 12 months on he shares the next the chapter about his new role as Lead Health Builder.

Sussex Musculoskeletal Partnership Central’s (SMSKPC) ethos of delivering innovative care is what initially attracted me to volunteering as a Patient Partner in the MSK service in 2015. I wanted others to experience that same life changing personalised care in their own lives.

I spent seven years volunteering in the role, working on service improvements to support people in managing their health needs. Last year I took on a more formal role as Lead Patient Partner.

Soon thereafter and in response to the NHS Long Term Plan, Patient Partners changed our title to Health Builders. We wanted people to see us as more than partners in existing models of care. We wanted to be involved in the drive towards building better health for all and in improvements in care for unwell people.  

We want to support people in their journey to better health. 

As Lead Health Builder, I support the organisation’s strategic development, governance and service improvements. Being in this position and recruiting others with MSK and wider health service experience, helps to ensure people’s lived experience is central to considerations and decisions of the leadership team and that this in turn permeates the culture of the organisation.

Through my position I can also hold the leadership team to account.

Photograph: Jenny Handy

Through the work of the wider Health Builder group, we build links with communities, the voluntary sector as well as local and national government to focus on ‘what really matters’ to people. 

The NHS Long Term Plan published last year, with strong implications of putting people at the heart of managing their own healthcare. This significant national policy change has to put people in control of their own health care journey, in partnership with clinical staff, other professionals and health focused charities.  

The plan pledges to develop ‘fully integrated community-based health care’. A bold new order in which there is a greater focus on prevention of disease and promotion of good health, supported by traditional treatment which is both exciting and challenging.  

We recognise the impacts of poor MSK health on general health and wellbeing. 

With MSK disorders affecting up to 20 million people across the UK and accounting for the fourth largest NHS programme budget spend of £5 billion, in England alone, we know that they account for one of the biggest areas of workload of the health service. We also know that 40% of this workload is due to potentially treatable risk factors. Our mission is not simply about workload, but most importantly it’s about providing exceptional care for everyone. And we mean everyone. 

Through innovations in care and operational processes, such as Community Appointment Days, self-referral, self-booking and electronic post-clinic letters to people and their GP’s, SMSKP has been able to deliver services in ways that really matter to people. This has led to greater efficiency and therefore less cost whilst improving care. 

Community Appointment Days (CADs) are events where people referred to the service are met in a community setting, such as a leisure centre or community hall. They are provided with a booklet, or passport, into which they enter all the information they gather during the appointment. We put patient records in the hands of those using our service and we simply scan their document as they leave.   

The CAD starts with a conversation with a clinical person to identify what really matters and advice and care are provided, or they can move on to a more in-depth examination and discussion about their condition. Thereafter a range of community support groups, health charities and local and national government organisations are on hand to provide advice and direction. A CAD really is a one stop shop. 

Impacts of MSK pain and disability have significant negative effects on the quality of life of millions of people in the UK; 10.8 million working days are lost because of musculoskeletal conditions and they are associated with many comorbidities, including diabetes, depression, and obesity. MSK conditions are reported to affect 1 in 4 of the adult population in the UK and they account for over 20% of all presentations in primary care. 

We simply must do things differently and I am proud our Health Builders are involved in developing innovations in health care.

Photograph: Jenny Handy

My days are spent in building networks with people, communities and both local and national organisations to work collaboratively to bring about change in the way health services are delivered. Being involved in decision making at the highest level within the organisation, as a service user, I am uniquely placed to have person to person conversations with those who are changing the way the system operates.

Photograph: Jenny Handy

Being in a room together is key to how things can improve. It enables real meaningful conversation, person-to-person, human, conversations that get acted on. That is why I do this work – because I know being a Health Builder makes a difference. But I can’t do this alone. We need more people to be involved in this exciting and potentially life changing work for our Sussex communities.  The new Major Conditions Strategy recognises MSK conditions along-side high blood pressure, cancer and other serious diseases. We want to ensure good MSK care works for our communities and that it is fit for the future. We are not alone. The NHS is changing, and we are at the forefront of this change. 

We have shown the impact that personalised care has on people and the system. The transformative experience this has on those receiving and delivering care when the conversation shifts from ‘what’s the matter with you’ to ‘what matters to you’.

If you’d like to join us on this journey, please do get in touch: norman.webster1@nhs.net

Also of interest

Long term conditions NHS eLearning programme features CAD

Long term conditions NHS eLearning programme features CAD

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