Over 150 Westminster staff, students, journalists and members of the public attended the opening event and received taster sessions of the range of services the Be Well London clinic provides. Visitors tried a number of massages including hot towel massage and Tui Na, received acupuncture treatments, mixed their own immune-boosting herbal tincture, tried a range of herbal teas, did relaxation exercises, and tasted and learned about delicious gluten- and lactose-free recipes.
University of Westminster alumni and teaching staff joined forces to open an affordable multidisciplinary health clinic at Cavendish Campus with an entrance on Hanson Street in the heart of London's West End.
Be Well London offers a unique concept: All patients receive treatment tailored to their needs. The clinic integrates traditional and modern evidence-based complementary medicine, combining Eastern and Western medical principles to provide innovative treatment options and education. Both types of medicines are available within the clinic, and patients can also book joint appointments where Eastern and Western treatments are combined. This can be particularly effective in case of chronic illnesses.
All employees of the clinic get paid the same regardless of the type of work being carried out, which eliminates the potential for therapy bias. Seeing patients pays the same as doing supportive work such as researching or updating social media. “It’s team work so there is no incentive to try to get people towards your therapy. It’s very nice because it’s purely about looking at what the best thing for the patient is and that’s what we direct them towards,” said Susanne Kaiser, co-founder of Be Well London, Lecturer in Herbal Medicine at Westminster and practising Medical Herbalist and Abdominal and Cranio Sacral Therapist.
Westminster therapists at Be Well London offer a wide range of complementary therapies, including Western Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture, Naturopathy, Nutritional Therapy, Tui Na and different types of massage. In addition, they run sessions specialising in fertility, female wellbeing, eczema, weight loss, sports, fitness and stress, with events ranging from seasonal tips for flu, nutrition for health and fitness, mindful-eating seminars with chocolate meditation, to hands-on workshops in their own herbal medicine dispensary.
As a start, patients can book a free, 15-minute gatekeeper appointment where the team can advise on possible treatment options. The ‘Wellness MOT’ gives an insight into patients’ health with the experts developing a personalised programme from a multidisciplinary perspective, following extensive assessments and a wide range of tests. This will culminate in a detailed report that will highlight areas that may benefit from early interventions.
Kaiser points out that the clinic can be a refreshing alternative to GP appointments with long waiting lists. “Often people just want their blood pressure to be monitored or urine tests to be taken and it can be difficult to get an appointment with the GP. If they want to have something like that done, they can just pop in. We are also very good at treating colds and the flu.”
How the idea came about
The Polytechnic clinic where Be Well London based is a teaching clinic for the complementary therapy pathway at the University of Westminster during the day. Here students from the Herbal Medicine BSc Honours, Chinese Medicine Acupuncture BSc, Chinese Medicine Acupuncture MSc, Chinese Herbal Medicine MSc, Herbal Medicine MSc and Tuina Chinese Massage courses can gain hands-on practical skills and complete their mandatory practice hours by treating genuine patients under supervision, which makes Westminster a leading University in complementary medicine training and research. During the evenings, however, the clinic space and its valuable facilities remained unused – until now.
Professor Jane Lewis, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology (FST), and Professor Annie Bligh, Head of the Department of Life Sciences in FST, came up with the idea of a clinic to utilise the premises in the evenings and to provide a space for alumni to be able to practice medicine after graduation. They asked Susanne Kaiser to develop the concept and set up an evening clinic using the business skills that she teaches medicine students on the ‘Starting Your Practice’ module, helping them to set up their own practice on graduation.
“I came to see this pattern that people were very isolated once they started practicing and it was a means of giving support. I truly believe that this multidisciplinary approach is so unique and so valuable, and we have this resource here because we have all these amazing graduates from all the different pathways and it’s about keeping them together and keeping that energy going by allowing them to work together,” said Kaiser.
She went on to select the most talented graduates with the best academic abilities in every treatment field. They are all educated to BSc level, which involves three years of full-time training, up to 500 practical clinic hours and a thorough understanding of the biomedical model. They then worked together to make it all happen.
“At the first meeting the practitioners all expressed that what they were hoping for was a much more group-based, integrated and multidisciplinary experience, where practitioners could work closely in teams and learn from each other and have the opportunity for supervision. The fact that they all trained in the same place and have the same training experience makes this setting ideally suited,” explained Kaiser.
Kaiser added that one of the best aspects of the collaboration has been that the experience has boosted the graduates’ employability enormously. “Their skill levels have increased amazingly because from the very beginning they were involved in every step of ‘building up’ Be Well London. So, they gained experience in marketing, running the clinic and every part of setting up a business – and all the 14 practitioners could do it together. It allowed them to really grow in terms of what is possible.”
Westminster students and staff enjoy 25% and 20% discount on treatments respectively until the end of the academic year for students and until March 2015 for staff when the discount scheme will be reviewed.
For more information and to book an appointment call +44 (0)20 3290 2203 or email [email protected].
Clinic hours: Wednesdays from 6.30–9.30pm
Contact hours: Monday–Friday 10am–7pm, Saturday 10am–1pm
Address: The University of Westminster Polyclinic, Hanson Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 6UJ