Osteopathy on the NHS
Approximately four years ago the National Institute for Health and Clinical Execellence (NICE) published a new guideline to help with the management of lower back pain. The guideline indicated that people suffering from lower back pain for a period of six weeks or more but less than one year would be eligible for a referral for a course of Osteopathy on the NHS (amongst other therapies). Referral under these guidelines for up to nine sessions over twelve weeks would be covered by the NHS.
Experts viewed this as a breakthrough in the approach to back pain which would potentially save the NHS millions. In fact an estimated £1bn of the NHS budget is spent on the treatment of back pain with approximately 2.6 million people visiting their GPs. These guidelines would help avoid unnecessary injections of therapeutic substances, and reduce the number of needless X-rays and MRI scans, thereby saving the NHS an estimated £33.6 million.
Unfortunately, while the guidelines sounded promising for patients and osteopaths alike, two years on very little has changed. Although these guidelines were introduced it was still left up to the local Primary Care Trust (PCT) to make the final decision whether to offer this service or not. At the point of writing this article, there are very few examples of PCTs which have implemented these guidelines and as always it is very much a postcode lottery whether you are entitled or not. Even those lucky amongst us who live in areas that allow referral will find statistically that this service is not widely offered. This may be due to the fact that the ultimate recommendation remains in the hands of each individual GP.
As an osteopath and a member of the health care profession, I look forward to the day that we will be able to offer osteopathy on the NHS and provide treatment to the wider population. I suspect, unfortunately, that it will be a long process before this day comes involving re-education of the medical system and general population in its approach to health.
In the meantime, I strongly encourage readers of this article suffering from lower back pain to ask your GP for a referral to an osteopath under these guidelines. Hopefully by requesting it will increase the awareness of your local GP practices and PCT
For more information about the guidelines visit www.nice.org.uk/CG88