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Open Access Research

Are chiropractors in the uk primary healthcare or primary contact practitioners?: a mixed methods study

Amanda R Jones-Harris

Author Affiliations

Senior Lecturer Chiropractic Sciences, Department of Academic Affairs Anglo-European College of Chiropractic Bournemouth, Dorset, UK

Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010, 18:28  doi:10.1186/1746-1340-18-28

Published: 27 October 2010

Abstract

Background

One of the debates regarding the role of chiropractors is whether or not they should be considered as primary healthcare practitioners. Primary care is often used to describe chiropractic but without any definition of what is meant by the term. Primary healthcare itself has many definitions and this adds to the problem. Existing research literature, based mostly in the USA, suggests that the use of the title "primary healthcare professional" by chiropractors is central to the identity of the profession. It has also been suggested that the concept of primary care is misused by chiropractors because they have not examined the concept in detail and thus do not understand it. For the sake of quality of patient care and for the legitimacy of the profession, chiropractors in the UK need to agree on their healthcare role. This study aimed to examine the opinions of chiropractors towards the use of the term primary healthcare when applied to chiropractic practice within the UK.

Methods

A sequential study of exploratory design was used; this model is characterised by an initial phase of qualitative data collection and analysis that precedes and informs the quantitative phase of data collection and analysis. In this study, interviews with members of chiropractic teaching faculty were used to inform the development of a questionnaire used to survey the opinions of chiropractors in the UK.

Results

There was a general consensus of opinion that chiropractors are primary contact practitioners, who work in a primary healthcare setting and that to be able to fulfil this healthcare role, chiropractors must be able to diagnose patients and refer when required. Participants did not feel that chiropractors are able to treat all of the most common medical conditions that present in a primary healthcare setting.

Conclusions

The findings of this study suggest that chiropractors in the UK view their role as one of a primary contact healthcare practitioner and that this view is held irrespective of the country in which they were educated or the length of time in practice.

Further research needs to be developed to evaluate the findings of the current study within a wider healthcare context. In particular the opinions of other healthcare professionals towards the role of chiropractors in healthcare, need to be examined in more detail.