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Physic: Oakington Therapy Centre

October 2006

Physic Most Girtonians who travel the road northward towards Oakington will have noticed the white sign before the Histon turn, indicating leftwards the entry to Physic. Many will have additionally noticed the large wood-clad and ecologically-consonant building at the end of the drive. But how many of us know what really takes place there?

Situated about mile north of the village (yes, it is within the Parish), Physic occupies a modern and stylish building. It is a multi-therapeutic centre for the practice of many related therapies in the field of Complementary or Alternative Medicine. The list is very diverse, and to a lay person, frankly bewildering. They include familiar therapies such as osteopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropody/podiatry, sports injury rehabilitation, massage and personal counselling. But also practised are less familiar therapies, including Chinese herbal medicine, medical herbalism, iridology, food allergy testing and nutrition, massage including Indian head and face massage, aromatherapy and reflexology, LaStone massage, Hopi ear candling, shiatsu, Pilates and kinesiology. This array of treatments is delivered by a team of 23 specialist and expert practitioners, drawn from across the county and across the world.

The philosophy of Physic is that of the creation of health, rather than the identification of disease: its motto is "Health is the best defence against disease". This goal is achieved not only through specific therapies, but also through cooperation between the various professionals. While a patient's presenting symptoms might indicate a single particular line of treatment, at Physic a holistic view is taken of the individual. An initial diagnosis by one practitioner can well point to a course of coordinated treatment from another or several of the experts at Physic. The high ethical standards of Physic are assured through the advanced qualifications and professional registrations of its practitioners, in the same way as with conventional medicine. Physic is an independent health centre, outside the National Health Service (NHS), and most of its patients are self-referred. None the less, some patients are referred from their sympathetic NHS general practitioners, while others come through insurance companies on a similar basis. Most patients are from Cambridgeshire and contingent counties, but a significant proportion come nationally and even from overseas. They cover all age groups from small children to pensioners, and they present with many types of health problems which are variously treated individually at Physic.

The Centre is open throughout the day Mondays to Saturdays for individual sessions or to make appointments. Group classes take place in addition in the evenings or on Saturday mornings, for example for homeopathic first aid, Pilates, yoga, meditation and Birthlight (antenatal yoga and parenting) classes.

Physic owes its existence to Roger Giddings, an osteopath, who first set up practice in Cottenham in 1984. Subsequently, the practice moved to Oakington (as Roger Giddings and Associates), and then into a purpose-built centre under the name of Oakington Therapy Centre. In 2003 the clinic moved to its new premises in Girton under the name of Physic. The sympathetic wood-clad building has echoes of New England, like a community facility where the town meets the forest. Roger Giddings played a major part in its design, and as Director still retains a larger-than-life father-figure coordinating role at Physic, while continuing with his osteopathic role, specialising in chronic spinal conditions. Two of the longest-serving practitioners who have contributed substantially to the progress of Physic are Joel Jaffey (a homeopath) and Tony Sugden, an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture and herbalism).

The other practitioners come from a broad geographical spread, and have an extremely wide range of training and qualifications, spanning not only Britain, Israel and continental Europe but also China and the United States. The Clinic Manager who instils calm and order across this incredible gamut of activities is Anne Abraham, originally a therapy radiographer. Anne is a resident of Oakington and is supported by a team of three receptionists.

While osteopathy remains the core therapy at Physic (with homeopathy and acupuncture second), the other therapies are growing in emphasis and importance. Some directly supplement those remnants still surviving in the NHS: for example, podiatry/chiropody at Physic is a greatly enhanced and integrated high-quality professional service. Other areas of practice extend the range of conventional medicine. In particular, Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes Chinese herbalism, is practised at Physic at an advanced level by nationally recognised Chinese and Western experts, and is growing considerably in acceptance and importance.

As well as treating individual patients, Physic is also growing as a centre for training practitioners in its diverse therapies. Its experts already teach and examine in a variety of British and overseas universities and specialist colleges, as well as publishing in learned journals and presenting papers at conferences. For 2007, an innovative project is a training programme titled the Cambridge-Shenzhou Open University of Chinese Medicine. It is to be run in conjunction with Shenzhou University in the Netherlands, and with Nanjing University in the People's Republic of China for clinical practice. It will provide part- and full-time practitioner and advanced courses at Physic in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbalism leading to full accreditation, as well as offering Continuing Professional Development for current practitioners.

Whatever one's views on complementary or alternative medicine, there can be no doubt that Physic has established itself as a significant centre of high-quality professional practice in its field, treating the sorts of complex health problems that are increasingly found in our society. As such, it makes a distinctive contribution to Girton as a community and to the wider provision of alternative healthcare in our part of the world.

Address: Physic (Oakington Therapy Centre)
Oakington Road
Girton, Cambridge CB3 0QH
Telephone: 01223 237459

'Focus on Girton' is a series of occasional articles on the public service, commercial, charitable and other organisations of Girton, for the information of local residents. Articles are written independently by members of the Editorial Staff of GPN, with the consent and cooperation of the organisation concerned. The selection of organisations featured in this series is entirely at the discretion of the Editorial Team. The articles do not in themselves represent an endorsement of the products or services of the organisation. No connection exists between the publication of an article and any advertising in the GPN, and the article does not form part of any marketing or other promotional activity on the part of the organisation.