Should your GP be an osteopath? Patients' views of an osteopathy clinic based in primary care

Jayne L Westmoreland, Nefyn H Williams, Clare Wilkinson, Fiona Wood, Alex Westmoreland
Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2007, 15 (2): 121-7

BACKGROUND: Spinal pain is a common reason for consulting general practitioners (GPs), and complementary therapists such as osteopaths and chiropractors. Patients express greater satisfaction with the care from chiropractors and osteopaths, because they are perceived as having more empathy, diagnostic skill and effective treatment, but their attitude to a GP providing an osteopathy service is unknown.

AIM: To explore patients' views of receiving osteopathy in contrast with usual GP care, to provide insight into the psychological benefit of treatment, and to explore their views on how such a service should be provided and funded.

DESIGN OF STUDY: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews preceded by short questionnaires.

SETTING: Primary care osteopathy clinic treating patients from Llanfairfechan Health Centre, which also accepted referrals from neighbouring practices in North West Wales in a randomised controlled trial.

METHOD: Short questionnaires followed by semi-structured interviews with 20 participants. The interview transcripts were analysed by open coding into categories, axial coding to define the categories' properties and selective coding for the final thematic account.

RESULTS: Traditional GP skills were valued, but GP care for spinal pain was perceived as limited and ineffective. Osteopathy was attractive because it did not involve drugs, but it had short-term painful side effects, and some found it frightening. Physical benefits included increased mobility and reduced pain; psychological benefits included removal of fear and improved understanding. Provision of osteopathy by a GP was welcomed, so long as the GP was properly qualified, and had sufficient time.

CONCLUSION: A GP run osteopathy clinic provided additional physical and psychological benefit. GP consultation might be improved by adopting some features from the osteopathic consultation.

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