<< Back to News
MusculoskeletalJun 6, 2024

Researchers will focus on treatment of MSK conditions in Scottish islands and rural locations

A University of Aberdeen-based team of researchers will conduct a five-year project focusing on healthcare inequalities in rural and island areas, thanks to funding worth nearly £1million from the Scottish Government.

The funding pot of £996,081, which was awarded by the Chief Scientist Office, will initially focus on three common health issues: musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, frailty and cancer.

The multidisciplinary team will gather information on both acute and longer-term conditions affecting a range of age groups and health conditions that are treated locally and in specialist centres, the University of Aberdeen announced today (7 June).

Rosemary Hollick, a senior clinical lecturer and co-principal investigator, said: ‘MSK conditions affect around one third of the adult Scottish population. They are associated with pain, stiffness and fatigue and are amongst the most common reasons why people take time off work or even leave their jobs.'

Dr Hollick added: ‘These conditions are also the most common cause of disability in older adults, and this is particularly a problem in rural communities with increasingly older populations and where social isolation and lack of carers presents additional challenges.’

Photo Credit: University of Aberdeen
Dr Hollick and colleagues will focus on musculoskeletal conditions, frailty and cancer


Identifying 'disadvantage'

The research will include the perspective of a patient in remote rural Scotland who has lived experience of chronic long-term health conditions. The project will look at important rural health inequalities, how they are caused, and effective ways to address them. The ultimate aim is to support the delivery of policy and inform the design of future rural and island policy, promoting social justice and enhancing the wellbeing of all Scotland’s residents – regardless of where they live.

Over the term of the project, the team will use interviews and data analysis to determine how people living in rural and island Scotland experience health services and identify when they are disadvantaged. Local, national and international policies that support care delivery in rural areas will also be examined to create guidance to support local and national service planning.

MSK conditions affect around one third of the adult Scottish population. They are associated with pain, stiffness and fatigue and are amongst the most common reasons why people take time off work or even leave their job [Rosemary Hollick]

Healthcare professionals 'will be involved'

Peter Murchie, professor of primary care and co-principal investigator, said: ‘People who live in rural and island communities can receive less or different healthcare from those living in urban areas, resulting in poorer health.

‘Significant research gaps remain in our understanding of what care is available in different places, how this affects patients and how healthcare services could better meet the needs of rural and island areas.

Professor Murchie added: ‘Our research will involve patients, healthcare professionals, those who plan and manage healthcare services and the wider rural population which will allow us to develop evidence-based recommendations for the future.'

Lorna Philip, professor of human geography and a collaborator in the project added: ‘Scotland’s rural and island communities are diverse so we have designed this research in a way that will allow us to explore healthcare inequalities in different types of rural and island communities. 

‘This will ensure that our recommendations for future healthcare take into account the needs to those who live in, for example, remote mainland rural communities, small islands in the inner Hebrides and communities in close proximity to cities like Aberdeen.’ 

Patient's perspective

Michelle Stevenson, lives in a rural part of Scotland, said: ‘I wanted to get involved in this project because addressing rural inequalities in health is very important to me, my family and my community.

‘I have a chronic inflammatory arthritis for which I receive strong medication to suppress my immune system. As a result, I recently developed an infection in my hip which was very serious and resulted in an emergency admission to hospital over an hour from my home in the Highlands.

‘I needed to continue strong intravenous antibiotics at home but because there were no local district nurses I had to travel 120-mile round trip three days a week to receive this.

Ms Stevenson added: ‘I’m now receiving regular intensive rehabilitation at the rheumatology unit in Dingwall which means being an inpatient for three weeks at a time, away from my family and friends. This has brought home to me the real, complex challenges faced by people living in rural communities to access health and social care.’

Health secretary Neil Gray said five Scottish institutions – the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Strathclyde, as well as Public Health Scotland – were each receiving £1 million pots of funding to conduct research programmes into areas of population health.

Author: Ian A McMillan
<< Back to News
By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy and Privacy Policy.