Author: Cathy Vivian

Date: 10 03 2020

CNHC Registrant and Bowen Therapist Cathy Vivian has worked in complementary healthcare for over 20 years, practising a variety of different disciplines. Here Cathy talks about a project by her local borough council that is taking the first steps towards something she strongly believes in – communicating to the public about the availability of complementary therapies in their communities and how this can support their health and wellbeing. 

I remember the moment very clearly – I was in my office shortly before Christmas of 2018 and I opened a letter from my local council. To my complete astonishment I saw the title of the letter read ‘Holistic Therapist Directory Pilot’!  I sat back in amazement and, little by little, excitement started to build. 

As a complementary therapist of over 20 years standing, I have grown to realise that a lot of patience is necessary to accept the slow creep of progress towards getting any kind of sea change in attitudes towards us. However, I do believe things are changing because our current community healthcare provision must innovate in order to survive. 

Many of us function within echo chambers, the definition of which is “a situation in which beliefs are reinforced by communication inside a closed system, with alternatives not being considered”. The complementary therapy world is no stranger to this phenomenon where the general public lack both information and trust in anything other than the presented conventional methods of healthcare. Breaking through these barriers and creating trust is the answer, and to do that we need to create interest and dialogue within our communities.

Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to hear Professor David Peters from Westminster University address a conference. He spoke earnestly about the need for new ways of thinking about delivering healthcare within local communities. He said that healthcare providers would be forced to innovate, but it required a brave step and an individual with foresight to start anything.

My local borough council of Hinckley & Bosworth have taken such steps and recently extending a project piloted in 2019 to signpost patients/participants to a number of local holistic health and integrative medicines (combining conventional healthcare and complementary therapies). The initiative was taken by Simon Jones, Cultural Services Manager at the council. It is based on a social prescribing preventative model for health, where patients are encouraged to take personal responsibility for their wellbeing. Local senior health colleagues have been very supportive of the project.

The signposting provided by the Holistic Health and Integrative Medicine Directory adds to the borough’s existing Health and Active Lifestyle Scheme which include GP referrals to a 12-week exercise programme, Walking for Health (for people with existing health conditions), Steady Steps Falls Prevention, Heart Smart (a phase IV cardiac rehabilitation programme), a Macmillan’s physical activity group for those affected by cancer, Smoking cessation, and free swimming for the over 60s.

A recent report from Simon shows a very promising and optimistic start:

  • Over 2,500 booklets have been distributed so far. They have been sent to community venues and to every GP practice in the borough.
  • The directory was promoted at the local Health and Wellbeing Partnership.
  • Our local MP until November 2019, David Tredinnick, took an active role in promoting The Holistic Health Directory. It was even mentioned in the House of Commons.
  • On a visit to Hinckley a copy of the booklet was shared with The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health.
  • The best practice concept has been shared with fellow District Health Lead Officers across Leicestershire.
  • More practitioners want to be included in the directory.
  • Recent research showed that practitioners use it to guide patients to providers of other services.
  • Community bonds are growing.
  • Recently an online version of the directory has been added to the Council’s website. In the first seven weeks the website pages had 71 views.
  • Version 8 of the directory which will see five new practitioners being inserted is due for publication in late March 2020.

This local health initiative has come about as a result of The NHS Long Term Plan which was published in early January 2019.

It is clearly early days and we do not yet have a fully integrated approach, but Simon assured me that some of the chief medical personnel within the county were supportive. As Professor David Peters said in his conference address, it is likely there will be at least two waves of healthcare collapse and innovation to save it. Perhaps we are still within the first wave?