I’ve been aware of CORE of Clapton for some time now. I knew it was something to do with a pair of osteopaths called Danny and Duncan, who were interested in research; I knew they wanted to provide low-cost treatment for persistent pain in the borough of Hackney; and I had also gleaned they were assiduous fundraisers, holding a very trendy gig – “Raise the Volume” – in Hackney last Summer, climbing Mont Blanc, and also somehow enlisting a load of Goldman Sachs employees to hold a spinathon to help them out. But it took a visit to the site of their new centre to understand what an ambitious and unique project this is.
There are few places which give practising osteopaths somewhere to develop their skills in a structured way in a clinical setting with other osteopaths of varying degrees of experience. My own time at the OCC was an invaluable stage in my career development, aside from being very sociable, supportive and lots of fun. The good vibes carried me through the rest of my week in private practice. There’s also the John Wernham College of Classical Osteopathy in Maidstone, and the Molinari Institute of Health. If there are any others, I don’t know about them. They all have their own particular identities and areas of interest, and the one of the chief interests at CORE is research.
Danny Orchard and Duncan Webster (pictured above) are the founders of CORE, an acronym for the Centre for Osteopathic Research and Excellence. Danny is a BSO tutor, and mentioned the idea for a centre like this back in 2013 when Duncan was still an undergraduate. Somehow they managed to run with the idea, and are renovating a beautiful old building on a quiet corner in Clapton, not far from fashionable Stoke Newington.
It was Duncan who showed me around the place. He had a maths degree before he went to the BSO, and as a student was surprised that there wasn’t more evidence for what we do. Totally at home with figures and statistics, he wants us to use the scientific process to discover exactly what we can do. He has a big vision. He not only wants multiple centres and multiple trials, he would also ultimately like osteopathy to be freely available on the NHS, but knows that the research needs to be there first. He thinks that osteopathy should be regarded a bit like dentistry: you might go for a toothache, but you also go for your regular scale and polish as a preventative self-care measure. He’d also like to set up evidence-based protocols for specific conditions e.g. diabetic neuropathy.
Personally interested in pain science, Duncan likes the NOI group and spends a lot of time in treatments educating patients. He’s also keen on visceral treatment and has done several courses with the Barral Institute. He will not be prescriptive about how people practise though. Also, he emphasizes that he is not interested in the amazing treatments that the leading lights of osteopathy do. He is interested in what osteopathy can do for people as generally practised by your local A.N. Osteopath, because that is osteopathy as experienced by most people.
This centre is planned to be just the first of many, which will serve multiple purposes.
Research – they are going to use PREMs and PROMs and try to gather plenty of data. They would particularly like to concentrate on preventative healthcare in the elderly. For example, to see if osteopathic treatment can help delay hip operations, or reduce the incidence of pneumonia, or improve the quality of life. This is what we and our patients feel that we do, but we don’t have figures to show either way. I imagine the implications of positive results for research in this area would be huge.
Mentoring – there are going to be quite a few pleasantly spacious treatment rooms. I counted 6 or 7. And the plan is to employ experienced osteopaths as mentors, and new graduates as clinicians or mentees. I say employ – they do want to pay everyone a fixed fee; not so high that people will do it just for the money, but high enough to feel that the work is valued – but that won’t happen initially, probably not in the first year, until they get properly set up and see what’s possible. So, the details are not worked out yet, but the ultimate intention is to pay all staff.
Collaboration – Duncan, like me, was spewed out of college into associateship in various private practices. I was fortunate to land up in kindly, supportive places, and also I was able to volunteer at the OCC, however many new graduates find themselves working out in the big wide world on their own, where they might be muddling their way through with no company, support or stimulation, and this place will provide a necessary antidote to osteopathic isolation.
Access to treatment – as the centre is located in a “mixed area”, they would like to devise some kind of Robin Hood system to subsidize less affluent patients. I took the bus from Finsbury Park along Seven Sisters Rd, and a fight almost broke out between two drunks as I surveyed the council estates either side of the road and wondered if I’d just forgotten just how grey and gritty London was. On Duncan’s advice I took the bus back via Stoke Newington, past the organic fruit and veg pick up stop, the kung fu classes, the Montessori school and Maison de Chien cat and dog grooming salon. Most pleasant.
Once they knocked out the internal walls and artificial ceiling, they discovered an exquisitely still, light oasis in the heart of Hackney. The rental of this space for courses or functions will help fund the centre
The need for good research was the prime motivation for this project, but Duncan and Danny have had to turn into fundraisers and property developers and businessmen to get to where they are going, and their energy and achievement so far is pretty impressive. This is an exciting year for them and will see the centre up and running.
It is hoped that it could open some time soon, as in Spring/Summer 2017, but despite looking pretty substantial to the casual observer, it is all still touch and go. Watch this space, get in touch if you’re interested in being involved, and remember they still need money if they’re going to complete it, and they have a donation page here…