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Tuesday, August 24, 1999 Published at 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK


Glasgow's NHS alternative

Evidence on homeopathy is growing

By BBC Radio 5 Live Health Specialist Fiona Plant

Here in Glasgow there's a hospital that has been in existence for almost a century but which is still unusual.

Alternative Health
It's the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, a national centre for integrating complementary and orthodox medicine.

It's headed by Dr David Reilly, who trained as a conventional medical doctor and is still a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Fiona Plant meets patients at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital
He says that while his best teachers were from orthodox medicine he believes that conventional medicine is too limiting in its apparoach.

"You're dealing with multiple organic disease and multiple psychological disability.

"It's a question trying to re-look at the person, their situation, their medical care and seeing what can be done for the individual.

"There'll be a synthesis of orthodox and alternative thinking and approaches, but more than that there'll be a focus on the person and their predicament."

Hospital's new home

The hospital's part of the West Glasgow Hospital University NHS Trust, has 15 beds and deals with 250 patient referrals a month - all of them from the NHS.

It's housed in a building unlike any other hospital you might have come across. It was finished earlier this year and designed as part of an architectural competition, painted a grey-mauve on the outside with lots of natural light inside, pale wood and decking patios for the patients to use.

GP Dr Peter May and Jayne Goddard, of the Complementary Medicine Association, debate the use of alternative therapies
Sheila, an inpatient, says she has been on every type of anti-depressant for years. She was referred to the Homeopathic Hospital by a locum GP.

She attended first as an outpatient then was admitted as an inpatient - when we spoke to her she'd been there for 2 weeks.

"I had no life for 10 years, I was just waiting to die - I felt so sick all the time on all these pills."

In hospital she was assessed, given acupuncture and ultrasound for osteoarthritis in her neck, feet and fingers - and then she was given a remedy.

"I had such an experience during the day, such healing - but what the healing was was the anger, the anger coming out."

After she leaves hospital Sheila will be put in touch with self help groups and with a counsellor.

She says she feels better - she is still on anti-depressants but doesn't feel like she's dependant on them any more.

Treatments applied together

Another patient, Richard is HIV positive and is being treated by Dr Reilly as an outpatient.

The approach has involved a certain amount of homeopathy for peripheral conditions such as itchy skin, but at the same time he's on the conventional triple therapy drug treatment for HIV.

"It wasn't just about taking pills or having medicine - it was about talking and working out in myself what was going on," he said.

Catherine was bedbound for many years with a chronic fatigue syndrome.

She has been treated with homeopathic medicines for a long period. It's also involved a lot of listening, talking, encouragement and attention to her nutrition.

"I was taken off wheat, I was taken off milk - I felt tonnes better. It's done more for me than mainline medicine," she said.

But Catherine and other patients we spoke to emphasised that because there are so many therapists out there caution should be exercised when using complementary therapies, a warning echoed by Dr Reilly.

"I've found lots of value, but I've found a lot of nonsense, a lot of woolly thinking, and a lot of potential for patients' care to become even more fragmented," he said.

"So the question for me is still how do you provide balanced care and how to you get a balanced health care system."

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