An open letter to the NHS by Dr.Matt Joslin

6th January 2016 by Dr.Matt Joslin

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Dear NHS,

When I write to the National Health Service, really I am appealing to you as its users. But you users are also the care providers, administrators, managers and policy shapers.

In this country our health service is part of the lifeblood of society. I am proud to be part of that despite the current challenges facing us.

So many of the news stories about the NHS currently sadden me. Services are cut back, patients are let down by the system, individual health care workers are overwhelmed and stretched to breaking point. The health of the nation raises cause for concern and we reflect on the trend of living longer but with doubt over the quality of that life in our more senior years. There are many ways that we as a society and providers of health care could address these problems and I want to bring Yoga to the table as an intervention on an individual and public health level that offers positive and sustainable improvements to health across the board. Before scepticism prevents you from reading further, please consider the following.

On a personal level I came across yoga 15 years ago to help me with back pain. My terrible posture and lack of exercise due to most of my week being spent sat at a desk was taking its toll. Subsequent to this I suffered a bout of depression, which nearly resulted in my leaving the medical profession. Unexpectedly, I found that rather than the well-pushed interventions of talking therapies and medication, it was my yoga practice that sustained me and helped me get back on track. As time goes by the many facets of yoga practice become more apparent to me. It is so much more than just exercise and now, with confidence from personal experience I recommend yoga to my patients.

Every day in my job as a GP I think of the potential of Yoga. Yoga could have a positive impact on almost every health related situation that comes into my consulting room. It comes up in discussions about weight loss, anxiety, back pain and depression, pregnancy, cancer, cardiovascular health and ageing. I could go on. The more I consider the role yoga has for an individual person coping with a particular health concern, the more I see the potential for Yoga to become a public health intervention that society could opt for to bolster the health of the nation. From a public health perspective, if a Think Tank was trying to devise an intervention that had potential to improve physical and mental health parameters across all age ranges with great accessibility and appeal, with little outlay for the individual in set up costs, I challenge you to find a better intervention than Yoga.

I want to see whether there is a way to marry the amazing healing sustaining practice that is Yoga with the services offered by the NHS. The NHS already sends people to the gym and to swimming pools. Find me a physiotherapist who doesn’t think yoga is a good idea. It is time yoga became the default option to get people moving, improve strength, flexibility and posture and while you’re at it, to bring a helping of mindfulness to promote mental health.

This idea has credibility is gaining momentum. Just last autumn The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group reported on the evidence and best practice of mindfulness. It plans to develop policy recommendations for Government with respect to applications in health, education, the workplace and the criminal justice system. Mindfulness is an integral part of Yoga, which has the potential to offer yet more benefits in those domains than just mindfulness alone.

Yoga is not new to the UK. Manchester in particular has very strong links to the yoga tradition with international expertise. The yoga infrastructure here grows year on year. Should the users of the NHS wish it, we can capitalise on this base of expertise and offer it as tool to improve health care. Essentially I am asking you to consider offering Yoga on prescription.

GPs have been put centre stage in the process of commissioning services. What strikes me is that in this process we should be representing the needs and wishes of the community when commissioning a service. This is a unique opportunity for you, as consumers of the NHS to have a voice and help shape a service if you want to.

Share this letter via any medium you choose. Open up the debate. Do you see a role for yoga in your health care? Do you have questions or reservations? If you show your interest and get a conversation going, we can encourage the NHS to drive this forward. I truly believe in this idea. I hope you see its potential too.

Yours Sincerely

Dr Matt Joslin

GP Manchester

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By Dr.Matt Joslin, Guest blogger

I am proud to be a GP settled in Manchester city centre after having trained and worked in Cambridge, London and Brussels. Being a family doctor is one of the best and most varied jobs. The world with all its problems can walk through my office door and I am invited to collaborate in helping out. In recent years yoga has become an increasingly significant feature of my life. As well as getting me in the best physical shape it has helped me through stresses and depression. I attend several Yoga Manchester classes on a weekly basis. More and more I share my experience of yoga with colleagues and patients. It has become a lifelong friend.


Comments

  • Splendid letter and an excellent idea! I will share on my yoga page to spread the word.

  • Donna Marganski

    Excellent letter and brave to share your own journey – but more powerful for it. Thank you. As a Psychotherapist and Yoga Teacher I agree wholeheartedly with you. I have shared to my business page, personal page and hope this gets momentum. YogaDonna – Yoga Therapist and Psychotherapy in Suffolk.

  • Alison Trewhela

    Having been the lead yoga teaching consultant on the University of York / Arthritis Research UK randomized control trial that showed that a specific 12-week yoga self-management programme (Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs) was effective and cost-effective (for the NHS, society and workplaces), I believe ‘yoga’. Especially becoming involved in our social enterprise (www.yogaforbacks.co.uk) that aims to educate and share the evidence-based yoga with yoga teachers and those with back pain can help to spread the word in a professional and effective way. Thanks, Matt.

  • SG

    Great initiative! It is highly therapeutic, and beneficial. That’s also why people do it outside of work. Its principles complement mental and physical health recovery strategies. It would save a lot of money by decreasing recovery time, and increasing time between relapses as this harvard study proved. http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/harvard-study-finds-yoga-and-meditation-reduces-healthcare-cost-43-36026

  • Emanuela Williams

    Hi Matt, thank you very much for promoting yoga within the NHS. You sent this letter last January. Any progress? I have been teaching yoga for nearly 10 years and trained over two years ago with Alison Trewhela to deliver the 12-week course on ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’. I have seen the progress made by my students over the years; so I know yoga works, and in particular the ‘Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs’ course. This is a specialist yoga programme based on robust and rigorous evidence that the NHS will want to hear about. I hope the NHS will one day listen and make yoga available free of charge. Wishing you all the best.

  • YUJ IT

    Yoga obviously works for general relaxation and improving mood, but the point is, the standards we would expect from a GP must at least match the standards the far less prestigious advertising sector has set for itself under the ASA and they explicitly warn against making any claims of efficacy without robust evidence. So do we really want to sell yoga the same way as the phamaceutical inductry sells us pills?
    The Relativity of Right: Yoga and Meditating… for Healthhttps://docs.yuj.it/people/matwitts/archive/articles/yoga-scientism

  • Alison Trewhela

    As Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs post-research project lead, I have just applied for NHS Innovations Accelerator Fellowship with the support of two Academic Health Science Networks (SW and NENC). This would certainly help put evidence-based yoga (University of York randomized control trial/ http://www.yogaforbacks.co.uk) on the agenda for mainstream healthcare.
    Additionally, 12-week Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs courses are offered in the NHS in Cornwall now as a pilot for spreading to other areas.
    A GP Trainee has won a Leadership Scholarship from the SW Deanery (NHS England Health Education) to further progress the evidence-based yoga programme throughout the South West of UK with the aim of sharing integration models with other regions.

  • Niraj Shah

    Dear Dr Matt – as many others have already done, I commend you on your open letter & am excited to see that this might be going somewhere. At the very least I am sure it has raised awareness for many thousands of people. I am working on a project that I think there will be synergies for you with in terms of our missions – http://www.tpoyoga.com – I would love to speak with you about it further. We’ve had a lot of support from some of London’s top yoga teachers & brands but I am keen for this to be a nationwide and global platform. What’s the best way for us to talk? You can reach me niraj@tpoyoga.com. Namaste, Niraj