Iqbal Hussein is an osteopath who has been practising in Marylebone’s Harley Street area since qualifying in 1986.
Tell us about yourself?
I was brought up in Northampton, which was famous for shoes and not much else! I am one of five brothers, number two in line and my mother always said I used to help people’s headaches by fiddling with their necks. I was kind of destined for the medical profession. I thought about medicine but diverted to osteopathy when I learnt of it from a careers guidance teacher and the only full time course that was available was at the British School of Osteopathy, which was on Suffolk Place near Trafalgar Square. Of course when I finished and having discovered London as a young man there’s no way I was going to go back to Northampton! And here I stayed, qualifying in 1986.
How long have you been in the area?
We had a very good friend who was an Endocrinologist who used to have a suite of rooms in Wimpole Street that were hardly used. So he kindly offered me use of a room free of charge which was a great opportunity. Like all businesses and especially in London, things start slowly. The build up is very gradual. I also used to work in Kent with a dentist, specialising in problems with the jaw for about 6 years.
As my practice grew in London, I decided to take on a full time lease myself, which was at 20 Upper Wimpole Street. 7 years ago I moved 5 doors down to my current rooms at No.25. My work is driven by recommendations and word of mouth – referrals from both other medical specialists and patients. In a place like London, it takes a long time to build up a practice – it has a mobile population. I’d say it takes about 10 years to establish a full time practice in London – then you have to make sure you look after your patients well and do the very best you can for them – they are my best source of referrals. (All practicing osteopaths are regulated by The General Osteopathic Council which has a strict code of conduct and guidance/restrictions on advertising). A great doctor once told me that to be successful in private practice one needs the have the AAA – availability, affability and ability! It’s definitely still difficult in London for new graduates.
Why do you choose to practice in the Harley Street area – what does it represent to you?
It’s historically world-renowned for its connection with medicine. It’s by chance that I fell into this area, but now it’s difficult to imagine working anywhere else. The Marylebone area is hugely cosmopolitan, very well connected by public transport and there is always plenty of parking in the area. It also allows me to have access to every kind of medical service I might need for my patients – everything is within a couple streets, whether it be another specialist or x-rays, blood tests, etc, everything can be done very quickly.
Having started in particular locality, one’s success is determined by remaining there. If I suddenly moved back to Northampton I’d have to start over, turning back the clock 28 years.
Marylebone is a great place to be – it’s remained truly cosmopolitan and Howard De Walden have done an amazing job of creating a village ambiance. I remember Marylebone High Street with only the basic shops and virtually dead after 6pm. Conran really kick started the process, Waitrose came in next I think and it went from there. Whoever thought of the term ‘Marylebone Village’ at Howard de Walden was a real genius!
What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
When you’re dealing with people and their health, it’s a challenge from the moment you meet them. The primary challenge is to establish a level of communication with the patient that allows them to express fully why they have come to see me. They need to feel free and comfortable telling me about what’s wrong with them – I need to get as much appropriate information out of them as possible and apply it as an osteopath to come to a correct diagnosis.
I also need to explain to the patient my diagnosis with clarity. The challenge there is to speak in a language that is understood and with figurative concepts that make sense so that the patient engages in their own well being and doesn’t just leave it only with me to deal with. Even if I can’t help, nobody leaves empty handed – they will have a better understanding of what their problem is and where they might go to find a solution – it may not always be osteopathy. I think only in that sense are we able provide a total healthcare model of care.
What condition/problem do you come across most often?
Most problems that I see are back problems, meaning head to tail – of which a large proportion are neck problems. My audits suggest neck problems are a greater number, but other osteopaths might have different statistics. But that’s good – it ties in with my mother saying I used to fix headaches by playing with necks! Because my work is largely word of mouth I see certain niches of people with a particular type of problem for periods of time – I once had a sushi chef who, having had a complicated complaint that we managed to deal with, recommended me to colleagues and there was a period of time for about a year where I saw a large number of sushi chefs! It’s similar with actors or sports people – they all seem to get recommendations from each other.
Do you spend much time around Marylebone?
I live just north of Marylebone Road on Gloucester Place. We do all our shopping here – from La Fromagerie to Waitrose and also visit a lot of galleries. St Christoper’s Place is also a lovely little street. However, my favourite place without a question has to be The Providores & Tapa Room – it’s the most amazing place. It’s unique in many ways, it’s got a very nice feel, unusual food and a beautiful bay frontage that is very befitting to the village feel. Peter Gordon is a lovely guy.
25 Upper Wimpole Street
0207 48 61920