About the author:
Catherine has been President of the BCA since 2017 and is the youngest President the BCA has ever had. She is the third female President in the BCA’s history, with its first in 1945 and the second in 1970. As well as making a lasting impact on the BCA by breaking down some of the barriers and myths about the industry, Catherine has empowered those in the profession so that its breadth and support is better understood by a wide range of audiences.
This Chiropractic Awareness Week (4th – 10th April), Catherine Quinn, President of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA), is exploring the opportunity and need for a more integrated healthcare eco-system, putting the spotlight on how chiropractors can help alleviate pressures and support improved patient outcomes.
Chiropractic treatment and its role within today’s health system often prompts questions and some debate – what treatments fit under chiropractic care? Is the profession evidence based? How can it support primary health services, with the blend of public and private practice in mind? This Chiropractic Awareness Week, I want to address these questions and share the British Chiropractic Association’s ambition for the future of the profession.
The role of chiropractic today
The need for effective and efficient musculoskeletal (MSK) treatment is clear – in the UK, an estimated 17.8 million people live with a MSK condition, equivalent to approximately 28.9% of the total population.1 Lower back and neck pain specifically are the greatest causes of years lost to disability in the UK, with chronic joint pain or osteoarthritis affecting more than 8.75 million people.2 In addition to this, musculoskeletal conditions also account for 30% of all GP appointments, placing immense pressure on a system which is already under stress.3 The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being felt by these patients and their healthcare professionals alike. Patients with MSK conditions are still having their care impacted by issues such as having clinic appointments cancelled, difficulty in accessing face-to-face care and some unable to continue regular prescribed exercise.
With these numbers and issues in mind, there is a lot of opportunity to more closely integrate chiropractic within health and community services to help alleviate pressures on primary care. This is something we’re really passionate about at the BCA. However, we recognise that there are varying perceptions of chiropractic care – not just from the public but across our health peers too. We want to address this, so every health discipline has a consistent understanding.
First and foremost, chiropractic is a registered primary healthcare profession and a safe form of treatment, qualified individuals in this profession are working as fully regulated healthcare professionals with at least four years of Masters level training. In the UK, chiropractors are regulated by law and required to adhere to strict codes of practice, in exactly the same ways as dentists and doctors. At the BCA we want to represent the highest quality chiropractic care, which is encapsulated by a patient centred approach, driven by evidence and science.
As a patient-first organisation, our primary goal is to equip our members to provide the best treatment possible for those who need our care. We truly believe that working collaboratively with other primary care and NHS services is the way to reach this goal.
The benefits of collaborative healthcare
As chiropractors, we see huge potential in working more closely with primary care providers and recognise there’s mutual benefits for both parties. Healthcare professionals can tap into chiropractors’ expertise in MSK conditions, leaning on them for support with patient caseloads. Equally, chiropractors can use the experience of working with other healthcare experts to grow as professionals.
At the BCA, our aim is to grow this collaborative approach, working closely with the wider health community to offer patients the best level of care that we can. Looking at primary healthcare services in the UK, we understand the pressures that individual professionals, workforces, and organisations face. We see the large patient rosters and longer waiting times and truly believe that chiropractors can alleviate some of those stresses by treating those with MSK concerns.
One way the industry is beginning to work in a more integrated way is through First Contact Practitioners (FCPs). These are healthcare professionals like chiropractors who provide the first point of contact to GP patients with MSK conditions. We’ve already seen a lot of evidence showing that primary care services using FCPs have been able to improve quality of care. Through this service MSK patients are also seeing much shorter wait times for treatment (as little as 2-3 days), so the benefits speak for themselves for both the patient and GP.
By working as part of an integrated care model, with chiropractors, GPs, physiotherapists and other medical professionals, we’re creating a system that provides patients with direct routes to the treatments that they need, with greater choice. Our role within this system is very much to contribute to the health of our country, support primary care workers and reinforce the incredible work of the NHS.
Overcoming integrated healthcare challenges
To continue to see the chiropractic sector develop over the coming years, it’s important for us to face some of the challenges currently impacting progress towards a more integrated healthcare service.
One example is that there is a level of uncertainty about where chiropractic sits in the public/private blend. This is something we’re ready to tackle head on by showing exactly how chiropractic care benefits different individuals, whether that’s through reducing pain, improving physical function or increasing mobility. We also need to encourage more awareness amongst both chiropractors and other healthcare providers about how an integrated workforce could benefit medical professionals and patients alike. For example, there’s only two FCP chiropractors to date, and that’s something we’re looking to change.
This is the start of a much bigger conversation and, at the BCA, we’ll continue to work on driving peer acceptance, trust and inclusion to demonstrate the value of our place within the healthcare industry. We’re ready to support the wider health community and primary carers, alleviating some of the pressures already facing the NHS; we’re placed in the perfect position as we have the knowledge and experience to provide essential support. My main takeaway from this year’s Chiropractic Awareness Week would be to simply start a conversation with us about how.
About the British Chiropractic Association:
The BCA is the largest and longest-standing association for chiropractors in the UK. As well as promoting international standards of education and exemplary conduct, the BCA supports chiropractors to progress and develop to fulfil their professional ambitions with honour and integrity, at every step. This Chiropractic Awareness Week, the BCA is raising awareness about the rigour, relevance and evidence driving the profession and the association’s ambition for chiropractic to be more closely embedded within mainstream healthcare.