Founded in 2004 by Charles Pither, a former consultant pain specialist at St Thomas’ Hospital London, and John O’Dowd, a former consultant spinal surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, the RealHealth Institute provides intensive treatment programmes for people suffering ongoing pain as the result of an injury or chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis. Patients either contact the Institute directly or are referred by GPs, hospital specialists, case managers or occupational health specialists. RealHealth has also established relationships with leading healthcare insurers, including BUPA.
To date, the RealHealth Institute has treated over 160 patients, achieving a 70 to 80 per cent success rate in helping people to make substantial changes to their physical and psychological function, enabling many to return to work and resume meaningful leisure activities. This is a comparable success rate to surgery with lower risk to the patient, and less cost and disruption.
Robert O’Dowd, Chief Executive Officer of the RealHealth Institute, said: “Spinal pain, such as low back pain and whiplash, are common conditions where the pain can be severe and often persists. Such pain is a huge cost to society as it can prevent people from leading normal lives at work and home. It is also a major cause of stress and depression – up to 50 per cent of patients attending pain clinics are clinically depressed.
Surprisingly, the reason why pain persists is not due to the severity of the injury but a host of other factors, such as the advice the person receives, their personality, their attitude to movement and pain, and subtle changes within the body, including involuntary changes in muscle tension and posture. When a person suffers persistent pain, yet tests are negative and treatment does not cure the symptoms, they often enter a vicious circle with poor sleep and high stress levels that leads to increased muscle tension, worsening pain and a spiral of increasing incapacity.”
RealHealth’s solution is to provide holistic treatment programmes that are designed to treat the whole person, not just the injury. The programmes are based on up to date best medical practice and are delivered by a medically-led interdisciplinary team of physiotherapists, psychologists, nurses and occupational therapists. Treatments include a functional restoration programme that aims to restore normal spinal function, enabling patients to return to work, and a pain management programme that helps patients develop effective strategies so that they can increase and maintain function despite ongoing pain.
Mr O’Dowd explained: “Our policy is to provide treatments where research or our own experience has proved that they work. For example, recently published research* has found that an intensive functional restoration programme is the optimum treatment for chronic back pain with the expectation that for many patients the pain will reduce substantially. This type of treatment is desperately needed and it is a tragedy that it has just not been widely available either in the NHS or the private sector.”
Mr O’Dowd commented on the fundraising process: “Our aim is to become the premier provider of intensive interdisciplinary rehabilitation services in the UK, delivering expert treatment in modern, purpose built centres in a community setting. The Capital Fund demonstrated a real understanding of our business and we are delighted that they have provided the vital finance we need to grow.”
The Capital Fund’s Investment Manager, Helen Reynolds, said: “The RealHealth Institute offers a unique and proven approach to pain management that could have a significant impact on the daily lives of thousands of people. The management team combines substantial expertise in back and musculoskeletal disorders with an innovative, holistic approach and they are well-placed to take advantage of the gap in the marketplace for intensive treatment programmes that traditional health providers are unable to offer. The Capital Fund is pleased to back their expansion plans.”
Margaret Henry | alfa
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