The Importance of Data

During last Summer I was approached by the head of research at the Association of Reflexologists AoR ( the largest governing body representing reflexologists in the UK )  and asked to take part in a zoom interview as part of the launch of a new membership research service. My fellow presenters would be the researcher, author and practitioner Dr Peter Mackereth (former head of Complementary Therapies at the Christie Hospital) and researcher, author and reflexologist Judith Whatley  (senior lecturer Complementary Healthcare. Cardiff School of Health Sciences) I felt very honoured to be included and nervously agreed as I had never been interviewed in this way before. The zoom meeting was an amazing experience and looking at the result on the members area of AoR’s website I was pleased with the quality of content delivered in such a short space of me.                                                              

The reason behind my invitation was due to the considerable amount of NHS cancer patient reflexology data (over 8,000) gathered from the Clinical Reflexology service I founded and operated for over 7yrs at Dorset County Hospital. My passion for data collection began when I started in private practice in 1990. I was a fanatical patient record keeper and when reviewing patient’s feedback at each visit I started to notice patterns of change in some patient’s symptoms following reflexology.

My first published data collection was a case study of a female breast cancer patient who came to me for reflexology with post operative pain. From her weekly visits I was able to monitor and measure changes in her perceived level of pain. The conclusion from 6 consecutive treatments showed that not only had her pain decreased in severity but the restricted mobility of her shoulder affected by the surgery was eased increasing the range of movement. The cynics amongst you may say that symptoms would have improved anyway….. as part of a natural healing process. That may well be the case but by gathering patient feedback I had evidence that some change had taken place following the weekly reflexology treatments. Reflexology was safe to use in this patient group and that a therapeutic and beneficial experience had been reported by the patient. Within healthcare clinical audit is frequently used as a benchmark tool for evidence of best practice and to inform service development. Audit can be used effectively in any public or private organisation/service. When embarking on an audit or conducting a data gathering exercise the scope of the project needs to be clearly defined. The Questionnaire/Survey needs to be clearly written with simple instructions. The questions need to be relevant and there should be space for Comments. Once the questionnaire has been distributed, returned the data extracted and collated a plan of action will evolve. Subsequent actions may include making changes to established methods or models of working practice.  Some find change difficult especially where personal feelings of ownership or emotional investment in an organisation/service may exist. I have found it difficult in the past to recognise that within my reflexology service provision at DCH there were patients whose needs were not being met. In this instance survey data outcomes provided evidence that it was a matter of logistics that needed to be addressed. The gaps in service provision had been highlighted and conversations between all parties involved took place and changes were made. I don’t support change for change sake however, when shown feedback data evidence that change is necessary to meet standards and address shortfalls I have learnt to welcome change. I constantly look for ways to improve the quality of the service I provide for my patients.