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A little over 8 months ago DanceUK opened the first of what they hope to be several clinics for professional dancers around the UK.
The first clinic is based within the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London and since opening it has seen over 100 dancers from a wide range of disciplines as well as students and former dancers.
As well as the in-house Consultant Rheumatologist, Dr. Roger Wolman, the clinic also appointed a physiotherapist in September last year to provide additional levels of treatment.
Helen Laws the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS) Manager from DanceUK told us;
Through the clinic we've seen hip-hop dancers, ballroom dancers, contemporary dancers the occasional ballet dancer. A whole range, [so] we're reaching the people that we wanted to reach.
The knock on effect to the clinics popularity is that the limited resources can quickly become strained;
Ms Laws explained;
I would say that its kind of been overwhelming, it's been hard to try an predict what the demand would be, it was partly reliant on how fast the word would spread. We didn't want to be spending money unnecessarily on people being [at the clinic] who might not be seen so we had to provide a service that was at the lower end of what we wanted to meet.
The downside of that is that we're now getting a bit of a wait time because it has been so popular so that is the thing we need to tackle next.
Despite potential wait times and issues regarding resources professional dancers have been universal in their praise for the service.
Above all they are reassured that their injuries are being evaluated and treated within the context of their job. The clinic staff understand why something that might be a minor annoyance to a non-dancer could turn into a potentially career threatening, long-term injury for a professional dancer.
Ms Laws highlighted the case of the clinics very first patient Andry Operia from London Hip Hop company Zoonation;
"The first person that was seen before we were officially open was Andry from Zoonation and he has been a major success story, He was seen really quickly he was operated on, did his re-gab and he was back performing in their show."
When professional dancers don't have access to such treatment the story is almost always very different. A tale of erratic physiotherapy appointments, expensive treatments, long waits and persistent injuries that often get worse over time.
Most dancers struggle to find treatment from specialists who understand their specific needs.
The research element of the NIDMS is not fully underway as yet, due to a lack of funding, but Ms Laws told us that the research element is still very much part of the overall plan.
Data is being retained to not only monitor the service that is being provided but to evaluate dancers injury treatment and recovery compared to those that do not have access to the clinic itself.
During the first year of operation the clinic is aiming to prove that it can be self sustaining. That is, attract enough use from the dance profession to justify the NHS running a specialist service
Helen Laws explained;
"I talk to the doctor all the time, he's seen over a hundred dancers. To make it self sustainable we needed to see 3.5 new cases per week and we've been getting between 4 and 6 new referrals per week."
Should this continue then a clinic, available to professional dancers, could become a long term possibility with the added benefit of not requiring any additional resources. All the provision would come from existing NHS resources.
The Disgruntled Masses
When the clinic first launched, a story on the BBC News website was accompanied by several angry comments decrying the use of "scarce NHS resources" for such a specialised group of people.
Ms Laws countered such criticism by explaining that dancers would normally not go and see their GP when they were initially injured due the complete lack of confidence that they would be listened to.
"They would have been waiting until it got really bad and then they would have been going to their GP and then it would have been, potentially, a lot more costly.
[There is] no extra cost to the NHS while testing out the effectiveness [of the clinic], dancers are seeing the correct specialist sooner so they get help earlier so it costs less.
The total NHS budget for 2012/2013 will be just shy of £105Billion. A number that is unlikely to be substantially impacted by providing appropriate medical care to a few hundred dancers over a period of twelve months.
If you're a professional dancer and need to be seen by the specialists at the clinic in London (although you do not have to be based in London) then you need to be referred by your own GP for treatment. The National Institute For Dance Medicine website has complete details on their website (link below)