HEALTH WATCH: Complementing Traditional Medicine

Article excerpt

MAKING alternative health therapies like acupuncture, homeopathy, osteopathy and herbal medicine available on the NHS could benefit the health and wealth of Britain, according to a report published today.

The nine-month independent study, commissioned by the Prince of Wales, involved case studies from three health centres ! in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Glastonbury and north London ! and a comprehensive literature review.

It found that many patients derived significant benefits from accessing the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies ! prescription costs were halved and there was a 30 per cent drop in GP consultations.

Economist Christopher Smallwood, author of the report, says the findings show the need for more research into the cost-effectiveness of the %Big Five& CAM therapies ! osteopathy and chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal medicine ! and their potential for eliminating gaps in current NHS services.

The weight of evidence we have examined suggests that complementary and alternative medicines could play a much larger role in the delivery of health care, and help to fill recognised gaps in health care provision,&& he says.

We believe there is a strong case for health ministers to recommend that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence carry out a full clinical assessment of the cost-effectiveness of such therapies.&&

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, says the report represents an impressive first step to identifying the contribution CAM therapies can make: %%75 per cent of patients want CAM therapies to be on the NHS. It&s not just a middle-class fad. The NHS needs to listen.&&