Working across boundaries to develop innovations to support the mental health needs of patients with persistent neck and back pain


To co-produce resources to support clinicians, patients, charities and volunteers in identifying comorbid mental health problems in people with pain Aim-

· To improve the care and opportunities for self-management for those with mental health issues and persistent neck and back pain


· To engage clinicians, patients, charities, academics and volunteers to co-produce key resources to support clinical care and self-management


A Community of Practice (CoP) model was used to explore current care pathways provided for patients with persistent neck and back pain in a large Musculoskeletal (MSK) Interface Service in North Staffordshire. Clinicians, patients with lived experience of mental health issues and persistent neck and back pain, representatives from the local and national ‘Mind’ Charity and local hospital volunteers were invited to be members of the group. Group discussion was facilitated to identify challenges and opportunities for service improvement.


Results: The CoP members (n=32) identified two key challenges: (1) a lack of confidence to discuss mental health issues in an MSK setting, and (2) a lack of knowledge on local services and self-management opportunities. The CoP co-produced and evaluated package of 3 innovations over a 12-month period to address the issues identified. The innovations were:

1. A mental health and pain awareness training session, designed for clinical staff and volunteers to attend together. Clinical staff and hospital volunteers attended a half day training programme which covered topics such as evidence based messages to use in a consultation and how to identify those who may need additional support.

2. A repository of services and self-management opportunities available in the local area. A file of local clinical services, support groups, charities and self- help opportunities was developed that could be accessed by clinicians/patients/carers in the Patient Information and Education Room at the Haywood Hospital.

3. A short video animation of the key health messages linking MSK and mental health issues to be shown in waiting rooms and online

Conclusion(s): This project provided the first ever opportunity in Staffordshire, for patients, volunteers, charities, academics and clinicians to scrutinise care pathways together. In sharing their own experiences, the CoP were able to successfully identify areas where improvements could be made, including increasing awareness of mental health issues and what was available to give support . Solutions were co-created and tested together for maximum impact

Cost and savings

Can provide upon request.


For this project, we considered the ‘workforce’ to be broader than a clinical team. By including volunteers, the charitable sector and patients with lived experienced we were seeking their expertise to co-create solutions. Through this process new networks were created, a sense of engagement created and a shared understanding achieved. This method has proved a successful way of working across organisational and professional boundaries. Further funding has been awarded from the Health Foundation to scale up the innovations to a national audience.

Top three learning points

No other information.

Funding acknowledgements

The Health Foundation