Taking stock, while looking forward – Easter message from Maurice Cheng

As we head towards the Easter weekend and the end of the third week of lockdown (is it really only three weeks?), I wanted to update you on what has been happening recently, and look at some of the issues coming up as we move forward together as a profession.

Firstly, what a tremendous response from osteopaths to the call to support our NHS! As we reported earlier this week, around a quarter of the UK profession has stepped up to this call. Over twelve hundred osteopaths have joined the several tens of thousands of retired and former NHS clinicians in putting themselves forward. We are also aware that lots of others have been approaching local GP practices and community providers directly, so the total number of us stepping up will be higher.

The iO has also been engaging the health services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and I am delighted to report a positive response so far from the Scottish and Welsh Health Services.

Health Education England is currently tackling the mammoth job of rapidly building workforce capacity into the NHS crisis management strategy and starting to place the many thousands of health professionals in roles all over the country.

They asked us to contribute to the draft of a guidance document, which sets out the many roles that osteopaths will be playing throughout the whole patient journey, working as part of multidisciplinary teams.

I am pleased that this guidance has now gone live to trusts and commissioners: I need to stress, however, that the skills and roles that we may be called up to fill will be determined by need, less likely in critical care but as part of what they envisage will be a long recovery support phase.

What has also been clearly expressed by HEE, is that while we are asked to help meet an immediate need, that this is an opportunity for osteopaths to establish themselves, and bring our unique viewpoint, into the multi-disciplinary working environment of the NHS longer term.

I have been keeping the GOsC informed of these discussions, and they have been supportive of our position and to the need to be flexible and responsive to scenarios that may see osteopaths working in new settings.

This is a huge endorsement of the profession, and acknowledgement of the skills that we have to offer.

I do need to stress that these call-ups will take time to implement, due to the sheer scale of the mobilisation. HEE has made clear from the outset that existing NHS staff (including osteopaths already working in the NHS) will be phased-in first. The next phase, in which non-NHS staff will be deployed, will be forthcoming in the weeks after.

I have a huge ask by the way, to the 1,250 osteopaths taking on the NHS callup – can you please let us know when you get in, and please stay in touch about what you experience? We will all benefit from learning from what you learn.

In other news:

  • We have been dealing with some of the loopholes in the government support packages announced over the last two weeks, and we have been busily lobbying to get these inequalities addressed.
  • We are very pleased that we will be able to help over 500 members who have applied for deferral on membership fees – and actually I also want to thank the many members who have written in to say they will not be taking this up so that we can continue to provide support for all members.
  • At present around two-thirds of practices have closed for now, over a quarter provide telehealth consultations, and just under ten percent continue to provide urgent and emergency face to face care. We are also, of course looking forward to what we need to do to support members and the profession during the next phases of this evolving situation. This includes:
    • How we can best support practices reopening
    • Identifying potential suppliers of PPE
    • What a patient information campaign could look like
    • How we can work with our schools to maximise student intake
    • And also of course how to stay engaged with the ongoing NHS plans to restore the nation’s health.

No definite solutions yet… but we are working on all of these!

We still have weeks of uncertainty ahead of us, but what I hope you will take away is that we are committed to guiding the profession through this situation. I know, that if we keep together and work together, we will emerge stronger for it.

In the meantime, have a good Easter, stay safe, stay well.

Maurice Cheng
CEO, Institute of Osteopathy


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