AECC University College Responds to NHS Long Term Plan

Following the publication of the NHS England’s Long-Term Plan, a number of academics at AECC University College have provided comment on topics covered within the document.

Professor Lesley Haig, Principal of AECC University College, commented:

“We welcome the publication of the NHS Long-Term Plan and acknowledge its worthy ambitions. It is pleasing to read of the focus on public health, allied health professions, and the recognition of continuing professional development.

AECC University College has a role to play in forming a sustainable workforce of health professionals, to underpin the practical reality of delivering the 10-year NHS plan. By understanding how our graduates and our clinical services can further support the NHS, and by providing flexible training and education of health professionals already working within the sector, we are able to bring our own expertise, insight and ideas to ensure support for a service under pressure.”

Supporting the NHS and its Workforce

The University College is already working closely with the NHS in multiple ways.

Our Chiropractic Clinic operates a musculoskeletal (MSK) triage and self-care service at Christchurch Hospital, to address the current workload issues in primary care. By substituting the GP for some of the patients’ appointments we are building capacity for GPs to work where they are more suited or required.

Director of AECC University College’s Chiropractic Clinic, Dr Neil Osborne commented:

“As chiropractors are not from within the NHS workforce, we represent a ‘new workforce’. Current practice sees other professions taking a triage role, but leaving a critical space that requires filling. Our School of Medical Ultrasound also support the NHS by seeing those referrals from the MSK triage service for no charge.”

The Chiropractic Clinic also run a joint collaborative Feeding Clinic with Bournemouth University Midwives, which helps with breast feeding issues. It further enables mothers to better continue with breast feeding, in line with the ‘best start in life’.

Significant areas of focus within the NHS Long-Term Plan include physical activity rates, and the use of tailored exercise programmes; and an increased focus on enhancing mental health care. While exercise has long been associated with both prevention and treatment for an increasingly broad range of conditions, as yet truly effective intervention programmes are yet to be developed.

Head of School of Psychology, Sport and Physical Activity, Professor Stewart Cotterill commented:

“There needs to be more of a focus on behaviour-change as well as physical activity-focused knowledge for healthcare professionals across the sector, and great engagement with community-led local programmes. This is something that AECC University College is in the process of developing for a range of health conditions including stroke, Parkinson’s, obesity, and mental health conditions. Crucially, we are also embedding high-quality research to generate the evidence to showcase how impactful behaviour-change informed and locally delivered interventions can be. This reflects the increased community-based physical and mental care focus also highlighted in the new NHS plan.”

Public health support for the wider community is already in place at our specialist health science institution, with exercise classes and rehab sessions available to patients, alongside exercise classes adapted for older people, and even ‘those who don’t want to exercise’, promoting healthy living and the importance of physical activity. Plans to introduce ‘Escape Pain’ exercise classes are in motion, following a national initiative designed to assist those with chronic joint pain.

We are also collaborating with local community health services, looking into additional training for final year students to effectively address some of the issues facing the patients they see – issues including smoking, weight loss, exercise and nutrition.

Upskilling Health Professionals

Our School of Medical Ultrasound plays a valuable role in the training of a variety of health professionals in ultrasound skills; an essential part of investigative healthcare. This includes the training of radiographers, physiotherapists, chiropractors, podiatrists, nurses, midwives, and doctors through postgraduate study and specialist short courses.

The upskilling of healthcare professionals is supported by clinical placements at our on-site ultrasound clinic, which has a reputation of delivering quality education and training for over ten years.

Chiropractic and the NHS

With the vast majority of chiropractors working in the private sector with limited inter-professional relationships with NHS clinicians, there is limited access for patients with appropriate MSK problems or health issues amenable to the package or care chiropractors offer.

Increasingly, non-emergency care will shift toward more community based services in conjunction with GPs in primary care, and as outlined in the new Long-Term Plan for the NHS, more emphasis on networks with local partners and integrated care approaches.

Head of School of Chiropractic, Philip Dewhurst, commented: “Chiropractors are ideally placed to assist in the implementation of the NHS Long-Term Plan, as they are already community-based, promote public health, and work with other health providers to ensure the best care for their patients. The School of Chiropractic sees this as a great opportunity, and to integrate the care chiropractors deliver with other clinical services to enhance patient outcomes and reduce the burden of muscular and joint pain in England.”

Recent guidelines and major research series such as those in the Lancet have called on such approaches to be priorities for low back pain, where specialised health professionals trained to manage MSK conditions such as physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths should be more involved. Some of the problems preventing more integration of care provided by chiropractors in the UK centre around the lack of examples of, and research documenting, patient experiences, outcomes, and costs of chiropractic services delivered in conjunction with the NHS or in partnership with GP groups.

Whilst rare, there are examples of such partnerships between the NHS and/or GP groups in the UK. A recent project appointing a senior research fellow and including the funding of 2 PhDs has been initiated at the University of Southampton, to look at the performance of such models of integrated care that involve chiropractors and the care they provide as options within NHS systems or GP networks. The project is headed up by Professor Dave Newell, Research Director here at AECC University College, and involves other chiropractic academics and clinicians allied to, or based at the University College, over a period of 5 years, and is based at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Director of Research, Professor Dave Newell commented:

“Funded by the Chiropractic Research Council in the UK, this is the first project to look closely at how chiropractic services are performing when working closely with the NHS in more integrated ways as local partners, and fits nicely with part of the vision of the NHS Long-Term Plan.

In the end, better and more accessible evidenced-based care, such as that delivered by chiropractors, is the central aim of our University College. Our research, often based within multiple university collaborative teams, also reflects this aim. As seen here with the NHS Long-Term Plan, our research also help to keep us forefront and contemporary in modern health developments and directions of travel.”