Living well with multiple conditions

Ruth ten Hove, who represents physiotherapy on the Expert Advisory Group to the Taskforce on Multiple Conditions, shares some insight and evidence 

Ruth ten Hove, Expert Advisory Group Member of the Taskforce on Multiple Conditions and CSP Interim Assistant Director

People living with multiple long-term health conditions (MLTCs) can be poorly served by our highly specialised health and care system. Supporting them to maintain their mobility was a strong theme throughout the taskforce’s first report and is a critical factor in ensuring both physical and mental health.

Our first report “Just one thing after another”: Living with Multiple Conditions features ten people in England living with two or more chronic conditions. Take a look at these stories that give an insight into the impact of practical challenges (multiple appointments, burden of medications) and physical challenges (chronic pain, fatigue, loss of mobility). Often people spoke in terms of losses, and mobility was a dominant theme. Loss of mobility caused a downward spiral: it contributes to diminished social connections and loneliness, which in turn can lead to a loss of mental wellbeing. These issues are connected and can be mutually negatively reinforcing, so the importance of people receiving the right kind of care, support and rehabilitation cannot be underestimated.

Physiotherapists and physiotherapy support workers are ideally placed to improve care for this group. Every contact with a physio is an opportunity to check in and take account of an individual’s needs, and we have a key role as patient connectors within the healthcare system. This will become more important with the move towards integrated care systems. 

Further, for people with MLTCs the importance of physical activity is well reported in the research evidence. This is the focus of the CSP campaign ‘Love activity, Hate exercise?’, and aligns closely with the Richmond Group of Charities’ own work programme, Movement for All (a collaboration with Sport England, Activity Alliance and Mind.

We need to be able to provide services that take account of MLTCs. This should be the new normal and requires a multidisciplinary approach. Physiotherapists have a critical role as part of the team, in not only supporting people’s rehabilitation but what this means in terms of emotional wellbeing, and connections back into the community.

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