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Joanna Hill's Journal on Integrated Healthcare - Part 1

Joanna Hill

The Bagnall Centre is now six years old, and what a very long journey it has been!

It began because my passion for therapeutic nutrition inspired and motivated me to create a healthcare establishment where nutrition, exercise and relaxation would be recognised for their critical importance in healthcare and their power to reverse human degeneration. Designing the centre and managing the renovation project was hard. Gaining planning permission was harder, and starting and growing the business proved to be the hardest professional and personal challenge I have ever faced. But we have succeeded!

Looked after by my amazing staff, each week we now have between 50 and 100 practitioners working here, and several hundred clients come through the door to learn about and benefit from a huge range of natural health approaches from acupuncture to yin yoga: we don’t yet have a practice beginning with Z, although my plant-based natural chef daughter Zoe is now teaching cookery classes for both children and adults. And we are immensely proud to have delivered two in our Lifestyle series of Conferences; Lifestyle and Cancer in November 2017, and Lifestyle and Diabetes in June 2018, at which all the speakers were medical professionals.

My personal aim has always been for the Bagnall Centre to provide lifestyle change programmes and support commissioned by the NHS, making them available to everyone who needs them regardless of whether they can afford to pay for them. We are working to establish direct relationships with the local doctors’ surgeries and hospitals. Encouragingly and increasingly doctors are referring their patients to us for self-funded exercise and relaxation classes. My ambition is that nutrition and healthy cookery will follow soon.

I am constantly researching and building links with other organisations and pioneers in integrated healthcare, which I define as the bringing together of orthodox and complementary medical approaches, alongside empowering individuals and inspiring personal commitment to a healthy lifestyle, to form one seamless medical system – the ‘Holy Grail’ of healthcare! I believe that mutual curiosity, empathy and respect are the keys to authentic and successful collaboration between conventional and complementary practitioners.

In my experience, the armoury of lengthy, demanding and expensive training, specialisation and sometimes reductionism, public funding and longstanding monopoly on healthcare provision and public loyalty, as well as extensive research facilities and funding on the medical/surgical/pharmaceutical side, is ranged against the ancient healing practices and their more modern variations, with their unequivocal passion for holistic systemic approaches and relentless search for the root causes of illness, and an insistence on individual responsibility for lifestyle moderation, who battle for private funding and are often discredited and dismissed for their lack of randomised controlled clinical trial ‘proof’ of efficacy (the latter being almost always concerned with drug testing, funded by drug companies funded by charities funded by donations from the public).

Hardly a fair fight, and a hugely counterproductive one too, when the optimal healthcare system requires these different approaches to work in harmony.

It is an exciting time of change in UK healthcare - the national healthcare arena is vastly more inclusive of natural and holistic approaches and lifestyle change than it was when we started this journey eight years ago.

The Bagnall Centre is well positioned to respond to the increasing demand for lifestyle change interventions to combat the many chronic conditions which do not respond to pharmaceutical interventions.

This blog is my journal of the integrated healthcare events I attend, and the integrated healthcare people I meet. I intend to discuss both the uplifting and disappointing aspects, and comment on their impact and import for the future of integrated healthcare.

I will be more than delighted to hear your own comments and views on the subjects I cover, and I will do my very best to answer them all personally. You can email me at joanna@bagnallcentre.com.