Why should we care that it is International Osteopathic Healthcare Week?

At a time when the NHS in the UK is under severe and mounting pressure created by a perfect storm of staff recruitment difficulties, finite resources and increasing patient demand (by numbers and expectation), it is worth thinking laterally to find solutions. NHS innovators are doing this, and talking about patient-centred approaches, integrated medicine and simple, yet-effective, messages about healthy nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices. These are exactly the founding principles of Osteopathy!

We must remember that Osteopathy was founded as a system of medicine in the USA at a time when the ‘alternatives’ were very poor quality healthcare. In fact, during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, US osteopathic physicians obtained better results than their non-osteopathic medical colleagues (for a superb history of this, I’d urge you to read ‘The Great Influenza’ by John M. Barry). On the basis of this and other factors, Osteopathy grew in popularity and, in US hospitals and health centres today, DO’s work alongside MD’s performing surgery, prescribing medication as well as carrying out musculoskeletal treatments, and are fully integrated within the overall provision of community healthcare.

In the UK we have a much older, more conservative medical profession more resistant to the acceptance of ‘new’ and ‘foreign’ models of healthcare. The path to Osteopathy’s migration from the US to the UK was far from smooth and, after the fiasco of the 1935 House of Lords select committee hearing which killed the attempt to pass an Osteopaths Bill, it was not until 1993 that the osteopathic profession achieved statutory recognition. During this process, and because of our strong emphasis on palpation, Osteopathy was somewhat pigeonholed into being perceived as merely a form of manual therapy rather than a system of medicine involving diagnostic skills. I am regularly told ‘I didn’t know that osteopaths did that’ and patients (of a certain generation) reminisce about the days when their GP knew them well, had time to spend with them and actually touched them! It is very timely to be reminded that osteopaths have many of the competencies which could help to ease the pressure on A&E and GP services.

Recent developments, such as the acceptance of osteopaths in the NHS as ‘Allied Health Professionals’ and work to publicise and promote our role as the first point of contact for patients, should see the increasing use of osteopaths as a valuable human resource for community healthcare. Using public money for this will require an evidence-based approach. We always need more high-quality evidence to support the work that we do and, with a system that is patient-centred and not population-centred, there will be challenges to the type of metrics that are most suitable. Perhaps a move towards a more values-based approach will be the answer.

Current public health issues including obesity, dementia, and antibiotic resistance alert us to the fact that care strategies must evolve to remain effective. Around 30,000 patients are treated by Osteopaths every day and this week reminds us that highly-skilled, intelligent, caring and professional Osteopaths are on stand-by to be included in the team effort to achieve good public health.

With the above in mind, we would like to join our colleagues from the Institute of Osteopathy and the International Osteopathic Alliance to express our support for this year’s Osteopathy Week – 15th April – 22nd April. On behalf of our chief Osteopath, David Propert, we will be sharing valuable articles and tips on our Facebook page here and spreading the word at Dolphin Square.

Want to join us and learn more? Simply contact us here or speak to David here.

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