An update from iO President Susan Farwell

iO President, Susan Farwell, shares a message of collaboration and unity at a time when resilience is being tested. Susan provides an update on topics including osteopaths access for vaccinations, and the ongoing support that the iO is providing for the profession. Read her full message below.


“Hello from the Institute of Osteopathy. Since my last message, just before Christmas, the pandemic situation has significantly changed in a number of ways, both bad and good. We have been monitoring the situation carefully, weighing the downs and ups. Our advice has been that there is no need to change or restrict what we have been doing over the past few months. The PPE and hygiene protocols are keeping people safe and allowing us to continue to serve the public.

The bad changes are to do with the number of infections and deaths which have been steadily rising since sometime in December. This seems to be due to new variations in the virus, which are more infectious than before. This is a very sombre time, nationally, as the news seems to get worse day by day and we hear reports of loss of life and of hospital staff working under desperate and exhausting pressure. Even when the numbers begin to drop, we will be living with the consequences of bereavement, depression, long COVID and financial hardship, which has yet to make itself fully felt.

However, there is also very significant progress now that the vaccination program is under way. Journalist Daniel Johnson describes “the astonishing success of the British vaccination programme” which is steadily increasing the numbers people who will be safe from the worst effects of COVID and, as he neatly puts it: draining the pool in which coronavirus swims.

It has been very good news that we osteopaths are included as “front line health workers” so are eligible for early vaccination. This means that we are able to continue our good work with less anxiety. It also seems to reassure our patients if we are doing everything we can to reduce the dangerous power of the virus.

The iO has been working with Public Health England to make sure it is known that osteopaths should have priority access to vaccination as Category 2. The iO has now written to all CCGs in England and some of the health boards in the home nations to help contact osteopaths. We have had feedback that this is proving useful. I was “done” a week ago and was most impressed by the small army of efficient volunteers who were marshalling and steering me through the process. “A veritable Dunkirk of the pandemic”, to quote Daniel Johnson again. We have also been advising the profession on how tactfully to make their GPs aware that they should be in category 2. The answer is: by email, provided that you can find the right email address.

Some of us have had to be a bit persistent in making ourselves known. The iO has drafted a template letter which you can use use to approach your GP.  This is all on the COVID Hub on the iO website.

A number of Osteopaths are working in vaccinator roles. My apologies for not giving reliable numbers but we are still at the data-gathering stage. The iO team are trying to support those who wish wish to apply these roles.

On all these issues, we have been staying in contact and working collaboratively with the GOsC.

We are also working with osteopaths in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ease their access to the vaccine. While the policy for covering independent practitioners is in place, trying to identify the appropriate local protocols is an ongoing challenge.

We are working to keep track of the continuously evolving Test & Trace system. There have been reports of lack of consistency and Test and Trace takes various forms across the four devolved nations. We have been supporting osteopaths where there have been disputes and have had some significant wins.

So I have a very definite sense that we are winning this grinding battle but there is still a way to go. This coming week, we are providing some extra support for osteopaths. We will be signposting access to a range of specialist services, osteopathic professional networks and other helpful resources via the iO Wellbeing Hub which includes:

  • Resources and range of services that can support with issues of stress and anxiety or mental health
  • Financial support and advice
  • Information on how to connect with osteopathic communities, both online and locally. For example your regional society or linking you up with a mentor

Maurice and I have been having Zoom conversations with osteopaths throughout the UK (including Gibraltar so we are trying to be thorough). Our impression is that the profession is doing really well but that all of us are feeling the strain and need the support of others.

So please don’t be heroic on your own. That’s dangerous and not good for resilience. Be heroic with colleagues who will be delighted to hear from you.

With very best wishes for 2021.

Thank you

Watch Susan’s message to the profession here.

Susan Farwell