On 20th October Vidyamala and Singhashri made their way to Portcullis House, part of the UK Parliament, for the much anticipated launch of the 'Mindful Nation' report. This was the result of many months of work by a dedicated team under the auspices of the 'Mindfulness Initiative'

All the great and the good of the UK mindfulness field were there along with a number of Government ministers who spoke about the value they see in mindfulness as a way of addressing some of the problems in our society.

Mark Williams spoke first about the benefits of mindfulness followed by a number of other speakers:

·       Tracy Crouch, Minister for Sport, spoke movingly and honestly about how the mindfulness courses at Parliament had helped her manage her own depression.

·       Alistair Burt, a Minister in the Department of Health spoke specifically about the role mindfulness could play in physical health amongst other things:

“Mindfulness can help people with physical health problems – an area I am very interested in exploring further. Since becoming a Health Minister, I have seen evidence showing that mental health interventions can be an important part of supporting someone with a long term health condition, including diabetes and musculoskeletal problems. I am keen to find out more about how mindfulness can contribute to this”.

Obviously Breathworks is well placed to help people with physical health conditions and I have written to Alistair Burt since the launch telling him about our work.

·       Nicky Morgan, Minister of Education, spoke about the role mindfulness can play in the education system, particularly helping to build character and resilience – two areas that she is keen to promote in the young people in the education system.

The session was wrapped up by three school children speaking eloquently about how mindfulness has helped them. Of course they stole the show!

What the report means for Breathworks

What immediately springs to mind when reading the report is the importance of having a high quality evidence-base. The authors decided to prioritise this when making recommendations.

In the health section, one of the recommendations is:

NICE should review the evidence for Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, cancer and chronic pain when revising their treatment guidelines.

This is an area where Breathworks may be seen as a treatment of choice given our areas of speciality are chronic pain and illness.

We were pleased to see Breathworks mentioned in quite a few places in the report:

·       On page 26 there is a full-page case study featuring Anu Gautam.

·       On page 73 in the section ‘the challenges of implementation in the NHS’ it says:

“Another model is Breathworks, a social enterprise founded in 2001 that is based in the north-west of England and works nationally, and which offers eight-week courses, adapted from the MBSR programme, for people living with chronic pain and other long-term physical health conditions. Their courses are not generally available on the NHS and cost £200 (with some partial bursaries for those who cannot afford to pay). They have also established a programme of courses and teacher training”.

·       On page 80 in the section ‘Where will the mindfulness teachers come from?’ the following statement says:

“Excellent models also exist of “in house” training within the NHS, as well as independent training organisations such as Breathworks, the Mindfulness Association and London Meditation (which together train a further 140 people per year)”.

Following the launch of the report I see the following as our key priorities and work is underway to strategise this:

·       Promote mindfulness for Long Term Conditions (LTCs).  70% of the NHS budget is now spent on LTCs and it is an area of tremendous interest in terms of finding innovative models of self-management.  And, as seen from the above quote from Alistair Burt, ministers within the Department of Health are interested in mindfulness.

·       Connect our work more directly to MBSR. Our programme is a direct adaptation of MBSR/CT for people living with chronic pain/health conditions and is highly prasied by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the person who developed MBSR. He said: ‘Mindfulness-Based Pain Management (MBPM) is the most comprehensive, in-depth, scientifically up-to-date and user-friendly approach to learning the how of living with chronic pain and reclaiming one’s life that I know of…I admire Vidyamala Burch tremendously. Her approach could save your life and give it back to you’ Jon Kabat-Zinn

·       Prioritise high-quality research to build our own evidence base.  Colin Duff and I jointly oversee research at Breathworks and we currently have the following relationships underway with outside researchers/clinicians:

University of Manchester School of Psychological Sciences & Maggie’s – designing study of MfH for Cancer patients and carers, with a view to ongoing research partnership

University College London Hospital – MfH book programme trialled for gastrointestinal in-patients, study completed and being written up for publication under supervision of Amanda Williams

National Spinal Injuries Centre and University of Buckingham – MfH online for spinal patients, controlled trial in progress

Leeds PhD study of MfH grads – Extensive interview-based study of MfH course grads now written up as PhD thesis, findings being written up for journal submission

De Montfort University – preparing bid to research MfH for LTC patients and carers

Universities of York and Glasgow – bid in development to trial MfH for patients with multiple conditions as part of an integrated care pathway 

University of Manchester Institute of Population Health – bid submitted to evaluate MfH online on prescription within General Practice in Greater Manchester

Salford university student – analyzing our MfS questionnaire data

Oxford University – post doc study of MBCT for IBS sufferers to incorporate Breathworks compassion meditation

Stanford University and Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing exploring detailed evaluation of MfH online, with a view to researching MfH group courses for pain unit patients to follow

A States of Jersey Pain Management Programme is running and evaluating regular MfH and MfS courses for patients, finding very positive outcomes for patients.

If you are aware of any possible research collaborations, then please do contact [email protected] to discuss taking this forward.

To view the report and read more visit the Mindfulness Initiative website.  Here you will also find special interest pages where Breathworks is strongly featured on the pain page , cancer page and teacher training page.