This event was generously hosted by Weightmans Solicitors in their offices in Fenchurch Street, London, a very prestigious venue and attended by luminaries from the chiropractic profession in the UK and Europe, education institutions, the world of health regulation, academics, politicians as well as the President of the European Chiropractors’ Union from Norway. The format of the evening was informal, with drinks for half an hour before the speeches and then a further hour of conversation lubricated by more drinks and some substantial canapés. There was a really good buzz about the event and a palpable energy in the room.
Our Chairman David Howell opened the proceedings with thanks to our hosts, and then a humorous expression of admiration for expertise. This was to be a theme for the evening. Peter Dixon then explained the rationale for the organisation. The fact is that back pain is at epidemic levels with the NHS only able to provide limited, and relatively ineffective, care through the physiotherapy service. MSK conditions are responsible for a huge amount of disability and time off work, and as a result a huge economic burden to the country, business and domestically, and the chiropractic profession is well placed to help. The limitation is the number of chiropractors in the UK and their geographical distribution. To grow the profession to the same % levels as seen in other countries such as Canada and Norway will take 200+ years at current growth rates, with the result that the profession’s ability to help solve this huge problem will be at least minimal and probably non-existent. The solution is to stimulate interest in it as a career at school level, and develop university based courses around the country to train more Chiropractors and with a more even geographical distribution. This initiative has already born fruit with London Southbank University starting to recruit for a course starting in September 2018, and expressions of interest from a University in the northeast of England and across the Irish Sea. George Freeman MP then delivered the keynote speech.
George explained that he had worked in the Bio-Tech sphere before entering Parliament. He had established and run three companies within the Pharmaceutical industry and he had therefore had seen the way that that industry viewed healthcare. Then in government as Minister for Health Sciences he saw how the NHS worked and how government viewed it. Both involved a ‘Silo’ mentality, and the central control exercised by government was very counter-productive. Any savings made by health authorities or Hospitals were not reinvested in the local service, but simply reflected in less resources being available the following year. His vision, shared by many across the political parties, is that the NHS should be run locally and not exclusively from Westminster. That money saved in a region should, at least in large part, be available for re-investment in the service in that area. This would provide a genuine incentive for making savings, and then he went on to explore where those savings might come from. It is not easy to make savings from modern high-tech interventions such as cancer treatments or surgery. Innovations in these areas make a huge difference to patients and have transformed the way we view and treat disease, but they are expensive. Savings should not be looked for in those areas, but can be made from the ‘low hanging fruit’ and MSK conditions are just that. Huge savings can be made there in the drug budget, in a reduction from co-morbidities (not least opiate addiction) and a reduction in disability and time off work. His vision is that health service can help facilitate this, industry will also be interested in helping to find a solution and it will represent a popular cultural change. It won’t happen overnight, but then stimulating interest in Chiropractic as a career, and then training more Chiropractors, doesn’t happen overnight either, so he was very supportive of this initiative and will help us in any way he can. He also highlighted the fact that he appreciated success against the odds, and he saw the chiropractic profession as the little guy that has struggled and succeeded. His words were very inspirational and everyone there really appreciated the care that he had taken and the support he demonstrated.
SPCE needs money and we are encouraging Chiropractors to support us by donating the equivalent of a treatment fee per month. We hope this should not represent too great a burden, and the regular flow of income that that will represent will make a huge difference to the speed and reach of this initiative; alternatively a one off donation would of course be very helpful. There will be regular updates as to progress and new initiatives to keep the profession informed of our progress. Any contacts that any of you have in the academic world at school or university level would be very much appreciated, so please get in touch if you know anybody in those fields. By supporting this organisation you will be doing a huge amount to preserve the role that Chiropractic plays and help to guarantee the future of your profession.
George Freeman is now Patron of SPCE.
Society for Promoting Chiropractic Education, 85 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7LT