I was pleased to see a report in today’s Argus about osteopathy services on the NHS. The piece isn’t online but in essence it says a new report from the British Osteopathic Association has found that whilst NHS West Sussex referred over 1,800 patients for osteopathic treatment – no referrals were made by the NHS in Brighton & Hove nor in East Sussex.
NHS Brighton & Hove are quoted in the article saying that they provide the full range of NICE recommended treatments through their physiotherapy service. I don’t question the quality of the physiotherapists, but they are not the same as osteopaths. They operate in a similar field but with quite different techniques and approaches.
NICE guidance for lower back pain includes osteopathy. Indeed there’s a growing body of quality clinical evidence to show that osteopathy is at least as, if not more effective, than other methods for treating back pain. These include a recent meta study and the ROMANS study which found that “outcomes improved more in the osteopathy group than the usual care group” whilst osteopathy was not significantly more costly. Indeed when my daughter was born through a ventouse delivery, the hospital midwife recommended an osteopath for helping with the damage the delivery had done to her little head. Four years later and you can barely feel on her skull where the ventouse was used, but I paid for every osteopath treatment myself.
In January of this year, the Council’s Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee received a petition and a funding proposal calling for therapies including osteopathy to be made available through the local NHS. This was of great interest to me so I prepared for the item in detail including collecting abstracts of studies to cite such as those I have mentioned above.
Osteopathy clearly has a solid evidence base to back its use. However when I attempted to have this discussion the Conservative committee chair and the Chief Executive of NHS Brighton & Hove both were keen for no discussion to be held at all. Against my protests the item was not debated. The following committee meeting I tried to discuss it again or at least find out if the local NHS had done anything about the petition. Nothing.
So I applaud NHS West Sussex for looking beyond conventional medicinal disciplines in treating their residents. It would be great if other local NHS primary care trusts would, before they are abolished, set a precedent that osteopathy should be available under the NHS in their areas. There should be no argument over providing treatments backed by guidance and sound clinical studies.
UPDATE 27th October 2011:
Brighton chiropractor Matthew Bennett (of Sundial Clinics) sent me a link to an interesting case study which further supports the benefits of chiropractic, osteopathic and physiotherapy treatments – and that they end up being cheaper for the NHS too.