Therapists call to be allowed to practise without referrals

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Earlier this month the government made amendments to the Covid-19 Workplace Restrictions Order preventing acupuncture or massage being undertaken unless it was provided by a doctor or a client was given a referral from a doctor or person registered under the Health Care Law.

However, Chris Duquemin, owner of New Vision Therapy, in St Clement, believes acupuncture and massage help improve physical and mental health – something he said was key to the response to Covid-19.

Mr Duquemin said: ‘Massage and acupuncture needs to be able to continue to operate freely as therapists provide a preventative skill set which helps improve an individual’s health. We cannot keep focusing solely on what to do when people have the virus. We must give attention to making sure people’s health is in the best condition possible as I believe this virus is here to stay.

‘You are denying someone the responsibility to take care of their own health and it puts GPs in an uncomfortable situation to make a referral when they already have enough going on.’

Edward Simons, who runs Acu-Harmony, in St Helier, believes the problem lies with the legislation covering acupuncture.

‘We are under the same bracket as tattoo artists and piercers, which is considered leisure. We should be deemed essential to health and in the same breath as osteopaths and chiropractors,’ he said.

Mr Simons said some of his clients had vowed to obtain a GP referral but he believed he was now going to see an 80% reduction in business. He added that GP costs may prevent people from seeking a referral. ‘Some clients won’t have the extra money to get a GP referral for a treatment they were already receiving,’ he said. ‘I usually treat up to 45 clients a week and I have already seen that number drop to almost nothing.

‘Ironically, I have been treating patients who have been suffering with long Covid and have been trying to help relieve some of their pain and symptoms. It really makes no sense as to why a treatment method which is taking strain off our already stressed health services is not being able to operate to its full capacity.’

An acupuncturist and masseuse, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they did not understand the rationale behind the government’s decision: ‘We have the same level of training as osteopaths and chiropractors and we abide by the same regulations and hygiene protocols as them, yet they can operate normally, but we cannot.’

They added that the time-sensitive nature of some of their clients’ issues would make the referral process stressful.

‘We treat pregnant women with back pain and people with migraines. By the time a patient gets a referral they could already have been forced to take three days off work,’ they said.

‘I usually treat around 30 clients a week but am down to around five. If we cannot resume normal service soon then I will have to assess my options – treating five clients a week does not cover my rent.

‘I understand we are in a pandemic and have to prioritise health but we contribute and are essential to supporting physical and mental health by relieving pain, stress, anxiety – or whatever the problem may be, which is essential during the current global pandemic.’

Commenting on the decision to require a referral for such treatments, a government spokesperson said: ‘The Covid-19 Gatherings and Workplace Restrictions Order was amended on Friday 15 January to allow for close-contract treatments, such as massage, to be provided for therapeutic purposes. The treatment can only be provided by a doctor or registered health professional or on referral from a doctor or registered health professional.

‘This will allow therapeutic treatment to continue for clients who require these treatments, whilst limiting non-essential treatments and the associated risk of potential Covid-19 transmission between therapists and clients.’

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