Indie Oxford Interview: Holistic Health
Today on the blog, we catch up with Joe Jennings from Holistic Health, to find out where his passion for alternative medicine began, why social enterprise is important, and how he has coped during the lockdown. >>
Tell me about Holistic Health and how it began.
I started Holistic Health with a desire to offer quality acupuncture treatments to those in need across Oxfordshire. I quickly realised that one of the greatest barriers for many people was economic, so I created the community clinics where I treat 4 people an hour rather than one, and so can offer a sliding scale starting at £17. It enabled me to help so many more people and has had a lot of support and praise from the patients.
Where did you interest in alternative medicine begin?
I first got interested in alternative medicine when I was travelling across South East Asia 15 years ago. I was fascinated by the holistic approach to mind, body and consciousness as well as the diagnostic and treatment modalities. So I did a bit more research into it all, the few thousand year history/evidence base it had, and was satisfied that it was going to be something really worth learning and offering. At that point I was considering medicine in comparison and even surgery, but I realised that whilst that has its place, I would be able to help far more people with the most common and affecting conditions out there; back pain, chronic pain, headaches and migraines, anxiety and depression.
You are currently in the process of becoming a CIC, why is social enterprise key?
Now that the project is really going well I have decided it is important to set up as legal entity. The natural option was a social enterprise, so I will be constituting as a community interest company. This is really important to me as it cements the founding principle – making acupuncture accessible to all. It stakes my flag as a company committed to social aims – which I always have been, but without the legal backing. It will also allow me to seek funding to further the aims by opening up new clinics and subsidising sessions where possible.
Do you think there’s a positive shift towards more purposeful business in Oxfordshire?
I have been quite involved with social and environmental projects over the last decade, and it has been great to watch all of the flourishing projects that have come out of it. To see The Community Action Groups Network grow, places like Makespace open, and all of the benefits these projects offer, gives me hope that there is a shift in emphasis away from purely monetary ends, to social and environmental outcomes.
I grew up in Oxford, so it has been especially nice to be able to see all of this happen, and to get to know some of the amazing people and projects doing their best to help people.
Tell me about the most common reasons why clients come to you for acupuncture?
The most common reason people come for acupuncture is pain, and of that neck, shoulder and back pain are most common, but headaches and migraine and joint pain are also very common. I see a lot of mental health conditions – especially anxiety and depression. Insomnia is also very common. Sadly, quite often these all come together as a self reinforcing negative feedback loop. Aside from that, menstrual health, digestive conditions and skin conditions I see a lot as well. One of the beauties of the community clinics is that it allows a much wider diversity of people and conditions to the clinics to give acupuncture a try.
How has Covid-19 affected your business?
The lockdown rules that the government have pursued, following on from the outbreak of Covid-19, made my work very precarious. With no obvious guidance from the government, I made the decision to close the community clinics before lockdown was announced, but continue to work with one-to-one patients (whilst offering a sliding scale to make it more accessible). This was to protect patients while we didn’t really know much about the virus. Then, when the government finally decided to lockdown there was no guidance for acupuncturists. Were we to be thought of as healthcare practitioners and allowed to help those that really really needed it, or were we more like hairdressers and tattooists. Clearly we are more the former, but in policy terms, we were the latter. I have nothing against hairdressers or tattooists, I am fans of both. But it was clearly ridiculous to put us together, especially when osteopaths and chiropractors were allowed to continue working. When they finally allowed us to reopen, there was still very little guidance as to what safety measures we were allowed to adopt, though this was just for one-to-one sessions. I have only just been able to reopen the community clinics as the government were in no rush to prioritise opening community centres. Anyway, it has been a wholly frustrating experience for me and my patients, particularly those with chronic pain and mental health conditions that don’t respond to allopathic medicine. They generally saw a resurgence in their conditions to the great detriment of their quality of life.
How and where are you currently practising, and what measures do you have in place to make clients feel safe?
Now the community clinics are open, and I am seeing one-to-one patients from home. I pre-screen for coronavirus symptoms, make sure everyone wears masks, clean the room and beds between every patient, make sure minimal surfaces are touched (those that are, are cleaned regularly) and I pretty much bathe myself in alcohol gel every few seconds. I use a thermometer at the community clinics to make sure no one has a temperature when they come to the clinics. I also make sure I follow all governing body and government guidance where there is clarity and it is over what I am already doing (it rarely is). I have to make sure we are super safe and cautious as we sometimes have vulnerable patients coming through, though, I am not seeing critically vulnerable patients at the community clinics. Fingers crossed community centres and home visits will be allowed to continue, or I will be considered as essential healthcare, because for a lot of people, I am.
How much does a session cost, and how can we book?
Sessions at the community clinics are £17-29 pay as you are able, and one-to-ones are £45 for the first session then a sliding scale of £35-45. You can book your session on the Holistic Health website.
Lastly, what are you favourite indie businesses in Oxfordshire?
My favourite indie businesses in Oxfordshire, that is a really tough one as there are so many great businesses and people out there bring fantastic products and services. If I had to pick a couple I would say I am particularly grateful for The Missing Bean and The Oxford Artisan Distillery. We have recently had a baby and so their products, at times, feel somewhat necessary and are really hit the spot.
Thank you so much to Joe for sharing his lockdown journey, and all the trials and tribulations along the way. It really has been a tumultuous ride for many small businesses, and there is yet to be an end in sight. The tenacity and resilience business owners find to get through these times is incredible, and your support, goes a long, long way.
If you would like to explore more health and wellbeing indies in Oxfordshire, check out the Independent Oxford Directory.