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Sunday, 26 March, 2000, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Complementary medicine 'backed by doctors'
acupuncture
Acupuncture used to relieve pain
Health professionals are keen to use complementary medicine to help people with cancer, a survey suggests.

Nine out of ten of the specialist doctors and nurses working for Macmillan Cancer Relief who were surveyed said they volunteer information about complementary medicine to ease symptoms of the disease.



We're very happy to see that healthcare professionals welcome cancer patients using complementary therapies as part of their care

Dr Michelle Kohn
More than 95% had been asked for information about complementary therapies by their patients.

And 75% of doctors and nurses said they would like further information on what is available, while 50% said they would like to practise complementary medicine themselves to ease their patients' suffering.

Among doctors, acupuncture and hypnotherapy were the most popular techniques. Nurses preferred to offer aromatherapy and massage.

Welcomed

Dr Michelle Kohn, who wrote the report for the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity, said the findings should be welcomed but warned regulation of the complementary sector was needed.

She said: "We're very happy to see that healthcare professionals welcome cancer patients using complementary therapies as part of their care.

"However, as interest in complementary therapies increases, it is even more necessary to ensure that these therapies are practised safely.

"Macmillan supports any moves to improve regulation of the different therapies to ensure that people with cancer are always protected."

The charity is calling for more good quality, reliable information on complementary therapies.

Doubled

A survey carried out by the BBC found the number of people using complementary and alternative medicines has doubled over the past six years.

The poll of 1,200 people found that one in five Britons were now opting for such therapies, spending almost 15 a month on average.

The British Medical Association (BMA) says it recognises there is growing interest in complementary and alternative therapies both among patients and among health professionals, but says better regulation is needed.

A spokeswoman for the BMA said priority should be given to the regulation of therapies including acupuncture, homeopathy and herbalism as these were the most common forms.

She added: "Because it is important that patients are protected against unskilled or unscrupulous practitioners of health care, the BMA believes that standards of good practice should be set to help both referring doctors and their patients.

"Both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education should include more information on complementary and alternative medicine since the public is seeking such information from doctors."

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