To answer your question of whether or not can I see a chiropractor on the NHS (National Health Service) the answer is both Yes and No.
It is unfortunately a post code lottery as to whether your local Primary Care Trust (PCT) has a contract set up with a local chiropractic clinic that your GP can refer you to for treatment. The National Health Service in the UK classifies chiropractic as a complimentary therapy, which means it falls outside the typical umbrella of healthcare services provided for free by the UK government.
There are ways to get treatment though. I have some of the names of chiro’s who have or are contracted in to provide treated for free when referred by your local GP.
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Chiropractic on the NHS
A chiropractor is someone who uses the same techniques as your general practitioner to diagnose your lower back pain or neck pain.
However, a chiropractor would most likely spend a longer time in consultation with you. This is because the average GP consultation time in the UK is 13.3 minutes¹. Whereas a new patient seeing a chiropractor for the first time could expect to be there for 30 minutes to one hour.
The chiropractor should be asking you detailed questions about your health history first. Then the chiro would be performing a physical examination on you to help diagnose your source of pain.
The chiropractor may also feel the need to refer you for special investigations like an x-ray, MRI or CAT scan. They may, if needed, also refer you back to your GP for further specific blood test to help make a diagnosis of your back pain.
Before performing any Chiropractic treatment the practitioner would explain their findings to you first so that you should have a better understanding why you have lower back pain or neck pain and what you choices are to get some back pain relief.
Did you know that “musculoskeletal system & connective tissue” problems account for the second most popular reason a patient in the UK would want to consult with their local GP. This means back pain, headaches and neck pain are just behind the most common reason to see a GP, the “respiratory system”. The third most popular problem patients need a consult with a local UK doctor for is for the “skin and subcutaneous system”.
As you can see this means general practitioners would probably be very busy everyday seeing patients with a muscle problem or a joint ache and pain.
Then what if you wanted to see a chiropractor on the NHS instead of your GP? Read on to find out more about the NHS health decision chain.
List Of Practices to Contact
Here is a list of possible UK chiropractors who have experience in currently treating or have done so on the NHS:
- Mark Gurden – Essex
- Nigel Hunt – Salisbury
- Nigel Corbett and Rebecca Corbett – Cornwall
- Cathedral Chiropractic Clinic – Truro, Cornwall
I read some news on the BBC website that NHS Kernow in Cornwall has authorised that patients can get their lower back pain treatment from a chiropractor paid for by the National Health Service. There are some criteria that need to be followed before a patient qualifies to have the treatment covered.
There are other NHS chiropractors that I have been able to find before. However, you would have been very limited as to the local GP surgery that could have referred you for back pain treatment. Well if you’re in South West England you might be lucky enough to fall under the catchment area covered by the Kernow Health Referral Management Service.
Criteria Needed To See a Cornwall NHS Chiropractor
According to the BBC news article the following points need to be ticked to qualify a NHS referral to a chiropractor:
- Cornwall patients must be over 16,
- Been living in the county for at least a year,
- Be registered with a NHS GP,
- Treatment covered would involve manipulation of muscles, bones and joints, often in the spine,
- Chiropractic sessions would only be available for neck or back pain which had appeared within 12 months,
- There are currently 14 approved Chiropractic clinics.
I know the British Chiropractic Association has been working for many years to have Chiropractic included on the NHS as a treatment option that GP’s can refer to for musculoskeletal conditions.
Primary Care Trusts Contracts
If you live in England then the people who decide what health services you will get in your area are called the Primary Care Trust. In Scotland & Wales it is known as the local Health Board, in Northern Ireland it is called the local Health and Social Service Board.
The Primary Care Trust will approve an Alternative Provider Medical Service (APMS) contract with chiropractic clinic in their area to provide chiropractic treatment for a group of GP’s in an areas patients.
This means that the GP may refer a patient to have chiropractic on the NHS only if the chiropractic clinic has an approved Alternative Provider Medical Service (APMS) contract with the local Primary Care Trust.
So how do you know if your GP can refer you to see a chiropractor? Well you need to ask the GP or the PCT.
Local GP practices decide what health services they want to provide patients in their area. The GP’s come together to form a GP consortia who would then ask the local PCT or health board to approve chiropractic services for their patients on the NHS. The GP consortia would do this if patients in their practices were asking to see a chiropractor on the NHS.
So this means that you have to ask to receive.
Only if your GP knows that you would like to see a chiropractor for your back pain episode could they then tell you if they can refer you to see a chiropractor on the NHS. They could also refer you, but you would have to pay privately for you chiropractic treatment and follow-up consultations.
By asking your GP if you can see a local chiropractor in your area means the GP will be aware that there is a need from their patients who are looking for Chiropractic treatment care. They may then look to apply for the PCT fund approval.
So at the moment in the UK not many GP’s can refer you to see a chiropractor on the NHS unfortunately.
For you this means you would have to pay privately for most Chiropractic treatment. If you have medical insurance like BUPA or PPP then you can also try claim your money back for you Chiropractic care through your insurance.
A typical new patient first visit consultation with a UK chiropractor can cost between £30-80 with follow-up chiropractic treatments costing between £25-50.
The NHS has done pilot studies with a good example being the NHS North East Essex back and Neck Pain service.
The Bottom Line
It is possible to see a chiropractor on the NHS, but currently very difficult. Your local GP practice would need to apply to the local Primary Care Trust or Health Board to have a Chiropractic clinic in your area approved for an Alternative Provider Medical Service (APMS) contract. Only then would your GP be able to refer you on the NHS directly for a chiropractor to treat you on the NHS. Until then most people in the UK pay privately or use medical insurance to cover Chiropractic treatment.
If you decide to see a chiropractor yourself you can search for a chiropractor or read more what a typical first visit to a chiropractor is like.
Remember that every UK chiropractor must be registered by law with an organisation called the, General Chiropractic Council.
If you have managed to get your chiropractic treatment on the NHS please let me know which Chiropractic centre or clinic that was by leaving a comment below.
- “Fifteen minutes with the patient, please” by Graham Easton Publication date: 06 Oct 2007
- Deveugele M, et al. Consultation length in general practice: cross sectional study in six European countries. BMJ. 2002 Aug 31;325(7362):472.