The Southampton Initiative

The ‘Southampton Initiative’ was drawn to a close in October 2021. The initiative commenced in September 2017 with the appointment of part-time Senior Research Fellow, Prof. Dave Newell, to work alongside an interdisciplinary research team within the Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton. Dave was joined in September 2019 by part-time visiting Research Fellow, Jonathan Field DC. 

Working with a other researchers, Dave and Jonathan initially aimed to conduct several studies looking at the provision of MSK care within an NHS setting, together with supervision of several PhD students and participation in several interdisciplinary studies. Common to most research activities, much of this was achieved, but some not as real-world issues raised barriers to completion of all the initial objectives.

One crucial reason was the cessation of clinical data collection. This was due to a change in NHS funding of MSK First Contact Practitioners which precluded the reimbursement of GP practices for non-physiotherapy MSK clinicians (including chiropractors), delivering MSK services within NHS primary care. This resulted in the cessation of ongoing chiropractic case studies that the team were using to collect crucial clinical data. In addition, Covid-19 had considerable impact on data collection for this, and many other research studies, with face-to-face consultations halted and access to healthcare facilities denied to patients and clinicians alike. 

However, the researchers managed to collect a substantial body of clinical data, are using this retrospective data to document the safety and efficacy of chiropractic care within a primary healthcare setting. The research team have also conducted several other studies resulting in publications in Open BMJ (studying widespread chronic pain) and Chiropractic and Manual Therapies (a series commencing with a qualitative study into remote consultations during Covid). Other publications are expected in 2022 investigating barriers and opportunities to the implementation of chiropractic within the NHS healthcare setting. In particular, they have been exploring the views and perceptions of key stakeholders, patient groups and allied healthcare professionals on working with chiropractors. We look forward to reading the findings of these studies in 2022. 

Despite the slightly early culmination of the Southampton Initiative, we feel that much practical knowledge has been gained from both the successes and challenges faced, and that the initiative has provided valuable insights into working within multidisciplinary research environment like the University of Southampton. This knowledge can be used to inform research capacity-building initiatives in the future. 

Additionally, we are delighted that CRC-funded PhD student, Marc Sanders, has been able to continue with his studies at the University of Southampton with ongoing support from his supervisory team, including Prof. Dave Newell at AECC University College, and clinical researcher, Jonathan Field PhD. Marc is investigating the barriers and facilitators for the integration of chiropractic services into the wider healthcare setting at the national and global level, and is making good progress with his studies.