This Chiropractic Awareness Week (April 4-10) we spoke to Catherine Quinn, President of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) to uncover the value and relevance of chiropractic care in today’s healthcare landscape – from its importance for primary health care providers and the profession’s attitude towards building a more integrated way of working, to the benefits of chiropractic care for consumers.
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 history of the BCA, the first in 1945 and the second in 1970. Catherine not only made a lasting impact on the BCA by breaking down some of the barriers and myths about the industry, but she did the people within strengthened the profession so that its breadth and support would be better understood by a wide range of audiences.
We began our conversation with a discussion of integrated healthcare, asking what role chiropractors can play and why a more collaborative approach to primary services is beneficial.
Catherine explained, addressing some of the pressures faced by primary care providers: “Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are the leading cause of disability, accounting for 30% of all years lived with disability. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still with MSK patients still beset by issues such as in-clinic appointment cancellations, difficult access to in-person care, and some being unable to regularly prescribed exercise to continue, impaired.
When the pandemic hit overnight, many people with existing MSK conditions were unable to access in-person services. This situation left patients faced with canceled appointments and uncertain how long their treatment could be delayed. As the situation continued, increasing numbers of people with new symptoms were unable to access NHS support, meaning there has been a huge increase in the number of patients seeking care from the independent sector. Private healthcare providers must play a role in ensuring sufficient capacity in community and preventive MSK services to give patients choices in how they access healthcare.
As chiropractors, we have enjoyed contributing to the burden of MSK disease by collaborating with our primary care colleagues and enabling other healthcare professionals to draw on the expertise of chiropractors.
“Better integrated models of care mean patients have more direct pathways to the treatment they need”
“There is often a degree of misunderstanding about chiropractic care and a lack of understanding of its rigors; Qualified individuals in this profession work as fully regulated medical professionals with a minimum of four years of masters level training. BCA members go one step further. New members are provisional until they complete their post-registration training with the Royal College of Chiropractors. This is because we want all of our members to be supported throughout their first year of practice and achieve the highest standards of care for their patients through engaging in reflective practice and blended learning.
“Where primary services are under pressure to meet goals and often have large patient lists, chiropractors can reduce some of those wait times by helping individuals who need musculoskeletal (MSK) treatments.
“This is something we are incredibly passionate about at the BCA. As private practice referrals become more prevalent, integration in keeping with the modern healthcare movement toward greater patient choice means that chiropractors are becoming part of the private and public mix—with the shared goal of providing the most efficient and effective patient care.
“In short, better integrated models of care mean patients have more direct pathways to the care they need. I believe that chiropractors can better contribute to the health of our nation’s population by supporting primary health workers within the NHS through mutually beneficial collaboration.”
We continued our discussion by addressing some ways chiropractors can begin working on a more integrated basis, touching on First Contact Practitioners (FCPs). I asked Catherine why having chiropractors in these roles is helpful.
“FCPs are healthcare professionals who offer patients with MSK disease the first point of contact, rather than requiring the patient to first make an appointment with and be referred by a GP.
“There is ample evidence that primary care services using FCPs are able to alleviate some of the challenges faced by the current GP referral system. 30% of family doctor appointments are related to MSK diseases So there is an amazing opportunity for chiropractors to get involved in supporting these services and relieving the growing pressure.
Chiropractors can provide important support by reducing waiting times, improving the quality of care and getting patients the treatment they need in the name of supporting the NHS.
“Most importantly, MSK patients have much shorter wait times for treatment (as little as 2-3 days) due to FCPs, so the benefits speak for themselves for both the patient and the GP.”
So it seems like there is a huge opportunity here to fill a concrete need – but why aren’t more chiropractors already in this role and what is your vision for the future of chiropractic?
“We need to create greater awareness among both chiropractors and other healthcare providers of how an integrated workforce could benefit both healthcare professionals and patients alike. In fact, there are only four FCP chiropractors to date, and we want to change that.
“There are two factors to consider: we need to understand our NHS colleagues who support the rigor and evidence of how the chiropractor profession provides care and that chiropractors see a career in the NHS as a worthwhile option. At the BCA, we also recognize that there are very different perceptions of chiropractic care that we wish to address so that all health disciplines have a consistent understanding. Chiropractic is a recognized medical profession and a safe form of treatment. In the UK, chiropractors are legally regulated by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) and are required to adhere to strict codes of practice, just like dentists and doctors. At BCA, we aim to represent the highest quality chiropractic practice, embodied through a patient-centered approach powered by evidence and science.
“As a patient-centric organization, our ultimate goal is to provide the best possible care to those who need our care. We firmly believe that working together with other primary care services and the NHS is the way to achieve this.
“To achieve this, we are focused on fostering acceptance, trust and inclusion from colleagues that make us part of the broader healthcare team and allow our members’ skills and experiences to be leveraged by other healthcare professionals working in who work in our company are recognized and valued in the field.”
It’s fair to say that health professionals have different perceptions and understandings of chiropractic care – what do you say to those who question its credibility? What is the best chiropractic care and why should our readers take it seriously?
“We understand the different perceptions that healthcare professionals have regarding chiropractic care and it is our mission at BCA to demonstrate that we are a partner with the same vision: to provide high quality, efficient and legitimate solutions to MSK conditions.
“A lot of the different perceptions stem from a lack of understanding of what chiropractors do, the training they go through to qualify, and how they are regulated. Like all healthcare professions, chiropractic has evolved over the years in line with evidence, professional experience and the needs of our patients, and the way we work today is to care for patients in order to be part of a modern healthcare team at theirs contribute to health. More than ever, our educational institutions are committed to an integrated approach in delivering their courses, and with students from different regulated healthcare professions learning side by side, we see a future where these misunderstandings are historic.
“Where proper knowledge is lacking, there can be an element of fear of the unknown, leading to negative bias. At BCA, this is a big focus for us. We are showing other healthcare professionals first-hand our values and commitment to improving patient health.”
Finally, what is the one insight or action you want our readers to keep in mind this Chiropractic Awareness Week?
“Approach chiropractic with an open mind and let us show you the quality, expertise and dedication of BCA members to improving the health of the nation.
“We stand ready to support the wider health community and primary care workers and alleviate some of the strains the NHS is already facing by offering our expert knowledge of MSK conditions 8.75 million people affected.
“We are in the perfect position to have the training and experience to support GPs, so my biggest takeaway from Chiropractic Awareness Week would be to just start a conversation with us about how!”
The BCA is the largest and longest established association for chiropractors in the UK. In addition to promoting international educational standards and exemplary behavior, the BCA supports chiropractors To progress and evolve to meet their professional aspirations with honor and integrity at every step. In this Chiropractic Awareness Week, the BCA is raising awareness of the rigor, relevance and evidence driving the profession and the association’s drive to embed chiropractic more closely into mainstream healthcare.