Wednesday, May 27, 1998 Published at 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Health: Latest News
Charles champions complementary medicine
Prince Charles wants orthodox and complementary medicine to work together
The Prince made the call when opening a conference in London on Thursday on how best to boost the standing of complementary medicines such as acupuncture, osteopathy and homoeopathy.
Open minded evaluation
Prince Charles told delegates: "One of the most important reasons for this initiative is to make the quality of health care for everyone in this country even better by harnessing all the medical knowledge and skills available to us - not only from orthodox medicine, which has achieved wonders in the last hundred years, but also from other traditions.
"I hope that we shall see an increase in research not only into the effectiveness and safety of complementary and alternative therapies and how to improve their effectiveness, but also into what people want from their health care and why they turn in particular to less conventional care."
The Prince also called for more progress towards self regulation in complementary medicine so that the public can be confident that they are getting expert care.
Having campaigned on behalf of complementary medicine since the early 1980s, the Prince said he was "enormously encouraged" at the progress that had been made.
"When we embarked on this voyage I did not expect to find so great a measure of support for the objectives, or so great a willingness on the part of both orthodox and complementary organisations and individuals to talk openly to one another and to thin the unthinkable."
The Royal Family has used homeopathic medicines for many years and their doctors are also trained in alternative techniques like acupuncture and osteopathy.
At the conference, experts from all fields of medicine discussed proposals for how a more integrated approach to healthcare can be adopted.
As well as research into safety and effectiveness and plans for proper regulation, there was also a call for changes in the curriculum of medical and nursing students to ensure that they are at least familiar with complementary medicine.
Surveys have shown that 25% of patients have tried complementary medicine and 20% of GPs have asked for some kind of training in them.
But despite the fact that a growing number of senior medical doctors who were once hostile to alternative therapies are now accepting them - there are still problems.
Lack of regulation
While there are many respectable and qualified alternative practitioners, there are also charlatans, and a lack of regulation means that patients may have trouble distinguishing between the two.
Dr Fleur Fisher, who headed a team of experts set up at the suggestion of the Prince to look at how medical education could be reformed, said: "Medicine is not an exact science, there are lots of things we do not understand. We do not understand the mechanisms of many diseases, and lots of discoveries of treatment have happened by chance. We need to open our minds to what each us, the disciplines, has to offer the other for the care of patients."
"This conference is a real watershed. Prince Charles has made really quite a brave move, he has acted as catalyst. We need to learn how to look at both the toxicity and the effeciency of the treatments we use in both complementary and orthodox medicine so we can understand better how we can help patients."