Over the past 50 years I have witnessed, and had the honour of being involved in, some major changes to the chiropractic profession. These changes have been instrumental in driving awareness and demand for our services and giving greater credibility to a profession that has often faced negative perceptions from other healthcare professionals.
When I qualified as a chiropractor in 1971 the number of chiropractors in the UK was quite small. In fact, when I joined the BCA my membership number was 283. The profession now has thousands of members as the profession has grown and opportunities have increased.
Changing perceptions of the profession
When I started out in the profession chiropractic had a poor reputation in certain quarters and wasn’t taken seriously by many people and we were often dismissed as ‘quacks’.
This all started to change in 1990 with the MRC Trial followed by the Clinical Standards Advisory Group (CSAG) Lords report, the UK Back pain, Exercise and Manipulation (BEAM) Trial and more recently the NICE Guidelines. These Trials showed that the profession was beginning to develop a research base encompassing Evidence Based Medicine rather than continuing to look backwards.
I was honoured to be asked to join the Steering Committee and subsequently the first GCC Council to implement the Chiropractors Act. The Act gave the profession greater credibility, providing reassurance to patients that chiropractic demands the same standards as other health professions.
I am proud of my role in enhancing the reputation of chiropractic. I was President of the Royal College of Chiropractors for 18 years and, under my leadership, in 2012 the College of Chiropractors was granted a Royal Charter and the Royal Prefix by the Queen becoming the Royal College of Chiropractors.
It was the first time a Royal Charter had been granted to a complementary medicine organisation in the UK and therefore it was a huge achievement on a personal level and for the profession. It’s also encouraging to see how many members (2,800) have embraced the RCC’s values of quality, safety and professionalism and their high standards of education, practice and research. This has been important because it not only has established the RCC’s position within the profession, but it has given greater kudos to the profession and help to secure public confidence.
Education and Training
When I studied to become a chiropractor in 1967 there was only one college. I’m pleased that education and training opportunities have progressed, with five universities currently offering courses.
In 1988, while I was Chairman of the Board of Governors, the then AECC obtained degree status. More recently, it has obtained University status. These are both major steps in the development of the profession. Another significant development is the teaching of some chiropractic students alongside other healthcare professionals, allowing greater inter professional growth and removing preconceived ideas about chiropractic. It also helps to build long term relationships with other healthcare professionals.
Opportunities through collaboration
Chiropractic has an important role in mainstream healthcare but to fulfill this role chiropractors need to work closely alongside other healthcare professionals, such as GPs. Over the years I have located my practices in GP surgeries to support closer working relationships, which has encouraged referrals and given patients ease of access.
Communication is key to building relationships. I have always communicated with GPs and written to them.
My experience shows that chiropractors can work well alongside the NHS but showing a willing to change preconceived chiropractic dogmas will create more opportunities for the profession.
There has been a remarkable shift in the reputation and perceptions of the chiropractic profession in the 50 years since I started my career. The benefits of chiropractic treatment are now more widely recognised and understood by both the public and other healthcare professionals. There is still work to do but if the profession works together, I feel confident that chiropractic has a positive future.