HC Deb 07 April 1976 vol 909 cc441-3

3.55 p.m.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the registration of osteopaths; and for purposes connected therewith. There is a growing interest among the general public, and even within the medical profession, in various less orthodox medical procedures, of which osteopathy, or treatment by manipulation, is probably the best known. This interest often comes from practical experience of the success of such treatment when more usual methods have failed. Some of it is also undoubtedly a reaction against excessive drug therapy and a search for more natural methods of treatment. My experience here is probably typical.

Some years ago while on holiday in France I had a fall which made movement of my right arm very restricted and acutely painful. When I returned home, I visited an osteopath who told me that I had dislocated my shoulder. He put it back into place with what seemed a very simple movement of his hands. That speedy and skilled manipulation, which removed the injury, seemed quite miraculous to me at the time, but it was, of course, no miracle. It stemmed from a deep understanding of the cause and cure of such lesions by the osteopath concerned. Equally important, he worked on the arthritis which had set in at the site of the injury after my weeks of neglect, and with a few further treatments he cured that also.

Such accidents and injuries—pulled tendons and ligaments, strained muscles, slipped discs and even more serious dislocations of body movement—are common to most of us at some time in our lives. In particular, back troubles are widespread and crippling, and osteopaths have a special skill in dealing with such conditions. I believe, too, that osteopathy can be particularly helpful in keeping older people mobile and active, both by preventing the impairment of movement of various parts of the body from becoming chronic and in relieving or preventing arthritis.

This year is being celebrated as the centenary of osteopathy in the United States. That indicates that the treatment is not new-fangled but is a tried and tested therapy. Since osteopathy is an area of treatment not adequately covered in ordinary medical training, many doctors now regularly send patients to osteopaths for treatment. But the osteopath practises under common law and is completely free and independent of any other medical service. He is not a medical auxiliary, and therefore he receives his patients direct and not necessarily on the advice of a general practitioner.

Unfortunately, such osteopathic treatment is not available under the National Health Service and patients must therefore consult an osteopath privately or attend an osteopathic clinic; and they have, of course, to pay for this treatment. I believe it important that osteopathy should continue to be treated as a therapy in its own right and that practitioners should retain their right to carry out their own diagnoses. It is for this reason that the register proposed in the Bill will not be part of the Professions Supplementary to Medicine procedure.

At the same time, with the growing public interest in this form of treatment, it is important that it should be performed by adequately trained and experienced practitioners and that the public should be protected from those practising skills based on home study "quickie" courses and the like, or people who may put up glossy but worthless diplomas on their walls. In this country there are two training colleges for osteopathy, the British School for Osteopathy and the British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy. Both have a full four-year course and strict entry requirements. These are recognised for student grants by the Inner London Education Authority and others. There is also the London College of Osteopathy which give a one-year course of training to doctors. These colleges have their own private register which intending patients can consult.

The Bill which I am seeking leave to introduce proposes that there should be a statutory register of all osteopaths who have followed such a recognised course of study for a required period. The Bill will set this out in greater detail and will, I believe, be an important contribution to the status and expansion of a very valuable profession. It will at the same time give additional protection to the public. They can be certain that the practitioner they consult is fully qualified if his name is on this register. It is a simple and limited measure which I hope the House will approve.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mrs. Joyce Butler, Mr. Tony Durant, Mr. Dan Jones, Miss Joan Maynard, Mr. William Molloy, Mr. Marcus Lipton, Mr. Alan Fitch and Mr. Paul B. Rose.

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