COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE, at least the sharp end - acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy - has lost a veteran campaigner and inveterate clown with the death of Geoffrey Foulkes. To a profession inclined to take itself too seriously - owing, perhaps, to a long struggle for recognition - Foulkes brought a unique blend of concern for the safeguards and standards required in its rapid evolution and a disarming humour that was a persuasive tool in his years of committee work on its behalf.
Through his terms as President of the British Naturopathic and Osteopathic Association and as both President and Chairman of the Traditional Acupuncture Society, which he helped to found in the mid-Seventies, Foulkes became actively involved in many of the earliest debates which laid the foundations for the greater respect complementary medicine commands today. The establishment of the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board and the imminent arrival on the statutes of the Osteopathic Registration Bill are just two examples of the fruits carefully nurtured by years of patient campaigning and negotiation to which he contributed.
Foulkes's efforts at improving the lot of complementary practitioners and their patients were prompted by his own early struggles at a time when becoming a naturopath or osteopath was very much a vocation rather than just another career option. At the start of the Second World War there were not that many options and Foulkes became an apprentice draughtsman at Briggs Motors (later to become part of Ford Motors), where he was a contemporary of the speed ace Donald Campbell.
It was, he said, purely by accident - a severe rugby injury incurred during the war while in the Royal Navy - that he entered the healing profession. He was paralysed for more than six months and during the slow process of recovery he received considerable help from an osteopath which inspired his interest in natural therapeutics. It was to be some years before he could find the means to undertake the lengthy course of study, however, and only with the aid of a scholarship arranged by the principal of Towerleaze, a naturopathic clinic in Bristol where he had worked as a masseur, was he able to graduate in 1963 from the British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy.
Those of us who were at college with him learnt to recognise the mischievous look, beneath the eyebrows that would have been the envy of Denis Healey, which heralded the injection of a little froth into the turgid proceedings of professional meetings. Foulkes's avuncular bearded figure conveyed to the uninitiated a gravitas which he self-deprecatingly demolished to make a significant point. At one of the last meetings of the Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine which he attended in the House of Commons, he pointed out the paradox that should he wish to train as ballet dancer he could obtain a grant more readily than to study osteopathy.
Geoffrey Foulkes brought commitment and quality to the care of his patients in Ilford, and fortunately his work will be continued at the clinic under the supervision of his wife, Gill. He also enriched the lives of colleagues and friends with his shrewd observations leavened always by laughter.