The practice of osteopathy in the U.K. is usually within a more limited range than that practiced in the U.S.A. The majority of patients attending British osteopaths are suffering from obvious musculo-skeletal conditions (muscles, joints, ligaments etc.) more usually affecting the spinal column. In recent years the attitude of orthodoxy has changed dramatically. It is no longer a punishable offence for an M.D. to co-operate with an osteopath or to recommend osteopathic treatment, after decisions to this effect by the Ethical Committee of the General Medical Council. Consultant Radiographers have been given free choice as to whether or not to take, and report on, x-ray pictures for osteopath's patients. There are now osteopaths working alongside medical practitioners in the same institutions.
All this would have been impossible as recently as 1970. Public recognition of the value of osteopathic treatment has resulted in an enormous increase in the numbers of patients seeking their assistance. Many practitioners believe that osteopathic care should be freely available through the National Health Service, and if this could be organized it would greatly relieve general practitioners and hospitals. Although, since most osteopaths are already overworked, it is hard to know how they would cope. The saving in lost time to industry would be enormous; already many factories and businesses refer injured workers to osteopaths, and gladly pay their fees in the knowledge that the worker will be fit weeks earlier than otherwise. Many people cannot afford to pay for treatment, but if they live in London they can attend one of a number of clinics, such as those attached to the major colleges, where treatment is available at low cost.
Osteopathic care is more than the correction of joint problems, it is also a system of preventive medicine. By normalizing spinal and joint dysfunction before it has produced obvious symptoms, a great deal of potential trouble can be avoided. Thus, many people visit osteopaths for regular maintenance treatment and this includes assessment of young children during their vital formative years.