Sometimes things just come together. They click into place, everyone is on message and the team pulls together. Well my worlds of health care and yoga just clicked into place pulled together. The result was an Outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission when they inspected our GP surgery at the Docs in Central Manchester. The inspection looks at quality indicators such as are we safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led?  It also considers different patient groups and how we care for them. Well despite the challenges facing the NHS we have put the work in and we continue to do our best for the folk of Manchester city centre. You can read the report here Obviously this inspection was more about health care than yoga but nevertheless, my personal practice of yoga and sharing it with my patients drew the interest of the CQC inspectors. Yoga was one of the examples that they found demonstrated, that as a practice, we are able to tailor the services that we offer to the needs of our patient population. Some of you may remember that at the beginning of the year I cheekily wrote all over a GP’s prescription to encourage people to make yoga part of their life in 2016. This image linked to an open letter to the NHS about the benefits of yoga for psychological and physical wellbeing was shared widely over social media and even got the attention of local and national press. This snowballed yet further and to celebrate International Yoga day I was invited to speak at the Houses of Parliament for an All Party Parliamentary Group to support an Early Days Motion, “… yoga to be included as part of mindfulness and well-being initiatives for NHS staff and for yoga to be integrated within treatment for patients; and urges the Department for Education to introduce yoga in the school physical education curriculum.” Whilst waiting for National Bodies to mull over the potential of yoga as a health care intervention, Yoga Manchester and the Docs put their heads together to reinforce this message locally. So now patients often leave my consulting room without a prescription for antidepressants, rather they have had a more wide-ranging discussion about what lifestyle interventions could help them get through difficult times. If they are up for it they may take up the challenge of trying yoga for the first time and skip away with a first class free voucher. Now the gods roll their dice and the date of a Care Quality Commission inspection is beyond my control. It turns out that they chose to come during the week that I was undergoing David Swenson’s week long teacher training intensive workshop. My work colleagues were a bit put out that I had dodged the bullet of the inspection, so in the spirit of team work I legged it over from the Northern Quarter back to the surgery in the lunch time break of the workshop.  The Inspectors were a bit nonplussed when I burst into their meeting wearing sweaty yoga kit. “Right, I can give you 60 minutes then I need to leg it back to class.” I said in my most Zen like fashion, as you do when the most important inspection of your professional career is underway. Well what can I say? They like what they heard and the result is an outstanding result for the Docs So my yoga sustains me and gets me through difficult times. Now I am on a journey to share that with others. I have convinced the team at the Docs that this approach has merit for our patients. Now the CQC endorses this view by awarding our practice an Outstanding rating. Happy days!!

the docs surgery

After the overwhelmingly positive response to my "Open Letter to the NHS" earlier this year, I have some exciting news. You shared my message far and wide and it got both local and national attention in the press. After the Guardian article  I was invited to speak at an All Party Parliamentary Group in the Houses of Parliament on Monday 27th June for an "Early Day Motion". The motion is "That this House celebrates the 2nd International Day of Yoga, on 21 June 2016, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015; ... recommends yoga to be included as part of mindfulness and well-being initiatives for NHS staff and for yoga to be integrated within treatment for patients; and urges the Department for Education to introduce yoga in the school physical education curriculum." Quite rightly there is growing interest in the benefits of yoga as a healthcare intervention. Many of us have personally experienced the physical and psychological benefits of our yoga practice. Now there is an opportunity to spread this message yet more widely and bring this idea to mainstream debate. Where better to do this than the mothership of debate, the Houses of Parliament. So on Monday afternoon, I fought my way through the frenzy of tourists, protesters and journalists in Parliament Square. My resolve did waiver from time to time but thankfully I brought the well informed and tenacious Charlie Taylor-Rugman, one of the UK’s leading Ashtanga teachers, with me for support. As we crossed the Central Lobby, Lords to to the right and Commons to the left, the frenetic activity of Parliamentarians responding to a Labour leadership crisis and the fall out of the EU referendum made me wonder whether anyone would be interested in hearing about yoga.   Dr Matt Joslin Yoga Houses of ParliamentOur allocated space for debate was to be the oak panelled, green-leather cushioned Committee Room 10, upstairs overlooking the Thames. It holds about 100 people and to my surprise it was packed. The mood was celebratory. After all this was a coming together of individuals and teams across the world who are passionate about yoga and health care. The event took the opportunity to mark the second International day of Yoga. MPs sat shoulder to shoulder with yoga researchers, practitioners and therapists. Presiding was High Commissioner of India Shri Sarna. After introductions and an opening mediation, we had presentations about yoga in healthcare systems in India and Sweden. Data on pilot studies and some health economics was shared. One energetic and articulate young man emotively shared his story of cancer survival and passion for yoga practice.   Matt Joslin Yoga Houses of ParliamentMy time in the spotlight was brief, but hopefully memorable. I had been asked to talk about prescribing yoga as a GP. So proudly representing our great city of Manchester I stood up, cracked a joke or two and realised that my allocated five minutes was nearly up! My key message was simply that an endorsement of yoga by a health care professional under the banner of the NHS is a powerful message to patients. Patients trust their GPs, practice nurses and physiotherapists and the more of us healthcare providers there are who  can confidently signpost to quality yoga classes, the more effectively we can roll out the benefits of yoga in the NHS. This meeting is a first but very significant step on a path towards closer integration of yoga into NHS healthcare. Let us see where this network takes us.It has been such an honour to represent Yoga Manchester and the wider UK yoga community at this event. I will continue to do my best for you. Dr.Matt Joslin   Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save
The concept of offering yoga as a prescription by health care professionals has really begun to draw some attention. The Manchester Evening News has followed up on the original article and helped us to gauge public opinion. Literally thousands of you have shared the message across social media. I am heartened and enthused by your responses and motivated to move this idea forward. So I thought that you all out there would like an update of the feedback so far. Well it is no surprise that the yoga community is very excited about the idea of forging closer links with mainstream healthcare services to help people suffering with a variety of health conditions. The challenge is how to convince the population out there who may have never experienced yoga. So many of you have shared your experiences and how yoga has played a key role in recovery from a panoply of illnesses. You have given personal examples of your own healing and described what you have witnessed when observing yoga helping others. Yoga teachers and therapists have been in contact and shared their expertise and resources. You have also aired your frustrations. Many have already tried to bring to the attention of health care commissioners the potential of yoga as a therapeutic intervention, but with very limited success. We need health care executive decision makers to have some vision and creativity in how they shape services. Some freethinking wouldn’t go amiss. So let’s capitalize on what we have already and up the ante to convince the NHS that the health of the nation would be all the better for supporting and endorsing access to yoga. Of course there have been some constructive concerns raised about the idea of a yoga prescription. I am not suggesting that yoga should replace mainstream NHS services. The argument that people should take responsibility for their own actions and lifestyle choices is also sound. So I am not recommending that the NHS pay for everyone’s yoga classes. But some well targeted initiatives under the banner of the NHS could pay dividends. The economic concerns about how much it would cost to roll out such programs is an expected knee jerk response. However when examined closely this argument can easily be dispelled. Public health services spend a great deal of energy crunching actuarial reports about days lost from work due to back pain and depression. Consider the impact of this on productivity for the nation. Well Harvard University is wise to this and has commissioned research demonstrating that companies who invested in health and wellbeing programs for their employees, have reduced levels of stress, less absenteeism and increased productivity. Let’s invest in ourselves, i.e. UK plc to have a less stressed and more productive nation. The burden of weight gain, diabetes and their complications continue to rise alarmingly. The cost to the taxpayer for one such individual suffering with these conditions over a lifetime would make your eyes water. Imagine how much money could be saved if the endorsement of yoga by the NHS helped just a few people make sustained positive life choices such that they never became ill in the first place. Separate to the public health benefits of yoga is the consideration of specific yoga therapy for individuals suffering from particular conditions. As a yoga community we need to ensure that teachers are appropriately trained to deal with these conditions and that the evidence base for the interventions being offered is in place. Well guess what. This work is already well under way. Agreed, more research will always be needed to refine medical interventions, but good quality evidence is already published in peer reviewed journals. Since not all yoga is the same, and not all people are the same, some consideration does need to be taken by health care workers when signposting to yoga classes. Having an awareness of how strong a yoga class is, what modifications to postures will be offered and what approach is taken to the more reflective aspects of practice, should ensure a good match of student to yoga style. To achieve this, some work needs to be done amongst medical professionals to raise awareness of the different styles of yoga. So I feel that our argument to have the NHS endorse yoga is robust and gathering momentum. Here in Manchester we have put in place the first steps of a modest but achievable action plan. Now that I am a trainer of GPs I have an opportunity to expose doctors to yoga, who are still open-minded about how health care may be provided. Any #Prescribeyoga trainee GP, medical student or nurse coming in to our practice will have the offer of coming along to a yoga class with me to experience the benefits first hand. They will also get some information about the different styles of yoga to help them match the needs of their patient with an appropriate teacher and style. My hope is they will carry this experience all through their own personal and working lives, driving up awareness of the benefits of yoga in the medical profession. Since so many of my consultations stimulate the idea “Have you thought of yoga to help with that?”, our practice, meaning all of the GPs and the nurses, can now offer a first class free voucher to patients. Thanks to the support and generosity of Yoga Manchester and Yoga Express, any patient registered with us at The Docs can now experience the benefits of yoga free of charge and endorsed by their GP. This is how I can #prescribeyoga for my patients in central Manchester. What are you going to do where you are? #Prescribeyoga