Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Friday, 20 January 2006

Call for chiropractic on the NHS

Hywel Griffith, BBC Wales Health correspondent
By Hywel Griffith
BBC Wales health correspondent

A chiropractor treats a patient
The number of chiropractors in Wales has trebled in five years

Senior chiropractors in Wales are calling for the treatment to be made available free on the NHS.

Practitioners in Wales have more than trebled because of the increase in people suffering from back problems.

They says surgery waiting times in Wales could be brought down by offering NHS therapy.

The assembly government says each health board must decide its own spending but alternative medicine has to be proven to be safe and effective.

Still considered by some as something of an unproven alternative therapy - chiropractic treatment involves manipulating the joints, muscles and tendons, to offer pain relief.

In just five years, the number of registered chiropractors in Wales has rocketed - from just 30 in 2001, to 101.

When you get this sort of pain all the time you're quite prepared to go to any extent to make it better
Patient Charles Martin

That is thanks in part to Wales having its own training institute, based at the University of Glamorgan.

Dr David Byfield, head of the Welsh Institute of Chiropractic, said the government could help bring down surgery waiting times in Wales by offering chiropractic therapy on the NHS - at the moment, patients have to pay.

"My feeling is it would drop waiting lists because people are getting access to care faster, and they're getting some results and we're using an effective form of intervention in order to provide the treatment people need instead of the waiting lists," he said.

"We are an established profession that is available to the public in order to provide the skills and the care that they require, in order to assist the public in reducing some of this waiting list, and the disability and morbidity people suffer as a result."

Down in reception, there is also a growing queue of patients - Charles Martin has driven up from Cardiff to try and find some form of relief for his sciatica.

"A friend of mine recommended this place because he suffered from sciatica last year and was treated here, and I suffer from the same problem," he said.

Chiropractor carrying out treatment
treatment involves manipulating the joints, muscles and tendons

"I've been to my GP twice, and had different medications, but they haven't worked. I'm looking for something ..because I can't move very far anymore.

"My friend was cured - if the word cured is right, at least there's a chance.

"When you get this sort of pain all the time you're quite prepared to go to any extent to make it better," he said.

The assembly government says the use of alternative medicines is up to local health boards, who control local purse strings.

But with budgets already tight within the NHS, it is likely these patients will have to carry on filling a little bit of pain in their pockets.

Oliver Forbes-Turner is a fourth year chiropractor student who opted for the career after calling on the services of one himself.

'Amazed'

"I was working on a large country estate on Northumberland, refurbishing outbuildings into cottages and it involved lots of heavy lifting ," he said.

"Over many months and years of doing that I injured my back quite severely.

" I went to see a chiropractor in Newcastle and with the use of no drugs and no surgery he was able to get me back working in three to six weeks, and I was amazed by that.

He added: "Once people begin to understand the benefits of chiropractic and word of mouth begins spread and they realise how effective we are at restoring people's function and healthy work capacity, there'll be plenty of work out there for us, especially as more health professionals are becoming aware of the chiropractic industry as well."



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