MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The ‘University College of Osteopathy’ announced a proposal to merge with the AECC University College (AECC UC).  Both institutions will seek to bring together the two specialist providers to offer a “unique inter-disciplinary environment for education, clinical practice and research in osteopathy, chiropractic, and across a wide range of allied health and related disciplines”.

The partnership is allegedly set to unlock significant opportunities for growth and development by bringing together the two specialist institutions’ expertise and resources across two locations – in Dorset and central London.

As a joint statement, Chair of the Board of Governors at AECC UC, Jeni Bremner and Chair of the Board of Governors at UCO, Professor Jo Price commented:

“We believe the proposed merger would further the institutional ambitions for both of our organisations and the related professional groups, by allowing us to expand our educational offering, grow student numbers and provide a unique inter-disciplinary training environment, providing students the opportunity to be immersed in multi-professional practice and research, with exposure to and participation in multi-disciplinary teams.

“There is also an exciting and compelling opportunity to expedite the development of a nationally unique, and internationally-leading MSK Centre of Excellence for Education and Research, developed and delivered across our two sites.”

The announcement is accompanied by further uncritical and promotional language:

Established as the first chiropractic training provider in Europe, AECC UC has been at the forefront of evidence-based chiropractic education, practice and research for more than 50 years. The institution is on an exciting journey of growth and development, having expanded and diversified its academic portfolio and activity beyond its traditional core offering of chiropractic across a broad range of allied health courses and apprenticeships, working closely with NHS, local authority and other system partners across Dorset and the south-west. The proposed merger with UCO would allow AECC UC to enhance the breadth and depth of its offer to support the expansion and development of the health and care workforce across a wider range of partners.

Now in its 106th year, UCO is one of the UK’s leading providers of osteopathic education and research with an established reputation for creating highly-skilled, evidence-informed graduates. UCO research is recognised as world-leading, delivering value to the osteopathic and wider health care community.

Sharon Potter, Acting Vice-Chancellor of UCO, said:

“As an institution that has long been at the forefront of osteopathic education and research, we are committed to ensuring further growth and development of the osteopathic profession.

“UCO has been proactively considering options to future-proof the institution. Following a review of strategic options, UCO is delighted by the proposed merger, working closely with AECC UC to ensure that UCO and osteopathy thrives as part of the inter-professional health sciences landscape, both academically and clinically. There is significant congruence between UCO and AECC UC in our strong aligned values, commitment to and delivery of excellent osteopathic education, clinical care and research, and opinion leadership.

“AECC UC has a strong track record of respecting the differences in professions, evidenced by the autonomy across the 10 different professional groups supported by the institution. The merger will not only mean we are protecting UCO through preserving its osteopathic heritage and creating a sustainable future, but that our staff and students can collaborate with other professional groups such as physiotherapy, chiropractic, sport rehabilitation, podiatry and diagnostic imaging, in a multidisciplinary MSK and rehabilitation environment unlike anywhere else in the UK.”

Professor Lesley Haig, Vice-Chancellor of AECC UC, commented:

“Preserving the heritage of UCO and safeguarding its future status as the flagship osteopathy training provider in the UK will be critical, just as it has been to protect the chiropractic heritage of the AECC brand. UCO is seen as synonymous with, and reflective of, the success of the osteopathy profession and we fully recognise and respect the important role that UCO plays not only as a sector-leading provider of osteopathic education, research and clinical care, but as the UK’s flagship osteopathy educational provider.

“Overall it is clear that UCO and AECC UC already have a common values base, similar understanding of approaches to academic and clinical delivery, and positive relationships upon which a future organisational structure and opportunities can be developed. It’s an exciting time for both institutions as we move forward in partnership to create something unique and become recognised nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence.”

The proposed merger would continue the already founded positive relations between the institutions, where regular visits, sharing of good practice, and collaborative research work are already taking place. Heads of terms for the potential merger have now been agreed and both institutions are entering into the next phase of discussions, which will include wide consultation with staff, students and other stakeholders to produce a comprehensive implementation plan.

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In case this bonanza of platitudes and half-truths has not yet overwhelmed you,  I might be so bold as to ask 10 critical questions:

  1. What is an “evidence-based chiropractic education”? Does it include the messages that 1) subluxation is nonsense, 2) chiropractic manipulations can cause harm, 3) there is little evidence that they do more good than harm?
  2. How  an an “expansion and development of the health and care workforce” be anticipated on the basis of the 3 points I just made?
  3. What does the term “evidence-informed graduates” mean? Does it mean they are informed that you teach them nonsense but instruct them to practice this nonsense anyway?
  4. Do “options to future-proof the institution” include the continuation of misleading the public about the value of chiropractic/osteopathy?
  5. Does the”delivery of excellent osteopathic education, clinical care and research, and opinion leadership” account for the fact that the evidence for osteopathy is weak at best and for most conditions negative?
  6. By “preserving its osteopathic heritage”, do you intend to preserve also the reputation of your founding father, Andrew Taylor Still, who did many dubious things. In 1874, for instance, he was excommunicated by the Methodist Church because of his “laying on of hands”; specifically, he was accused of trying to emulate Jesus Christ, labelled an agent of the Devil, and condemned as practicing voodoo. Or do you prefer to white-wash the osteopathic heritage?
  7. You also want “to protect the chiropractic heritage”; does that mean you aim at white-washing the juicy biography of the charlatan who created chiropractic, DD Palmer, as well?
  8. “UCO and AECC UC already have a common values base” – what are they? As far as I can see, they mainly consist in hiding the truth about the uselessness of your activities from the public.
  9. How do you want to “recognised nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence”? Might it be a good idea to begin by critically assessing your interventions and ask whether they do more good than harm?
  10. Crucially, what is really behing the merger that you are trying to sell us with such concentrated BS?

4 Responses to The merger of two UK chiropractic and osteopathic schools prompted me to ask 10 uncomfortable questions

  • Some more questions:

    Why does any student want to become a practitioner of chiropractic rather than osteopathy?
    Why does any student want to become a practitioner of osteopathy rather than chiropractic?
    Why do any students want to become practitioners of either chiropractic or osteopathy rather than physiotherapy, or medicine?

    On what basis should patients choose between a chiropractor and osteopath, or a physiotherapist?

    Will the General Osteopathy Council merge with the General Chiropractic Council, and if not, why not?
    (Many have argued that these two regulatory bodies should not have been developed separately in the first place.)

    • good questions!
      I whish someone would answer them competently – but I’m not holding my breath.

    • 100% Richard! Unfortunately and as usual, it’s all about the money. “Growing student numbers” as they say.

      I see no benefit for any health system gains…just a few fattened wallets.

      If this happens they, these osteopathic schools, will do their “credibility” no favor’s.

  • For me the really big question is: “Do patients, potential patients, the public, politicians know about the failure to answer all these critical questions.?”

    It’s called ‘professional integrity’.

    If they are not answered – to what extent should chirosteopaths be regarded as charlatans?

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