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Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
GPs encouraged to go alternative
Acupuncture has proven health benefits
Every GP practice in the country is to receive comprehensive information on complementary medicine to encourage doctors to embrace unorthodox forms of healing.

The guidance, which covers the six complementary therapies most often provided in the NHS, will help doctors make fully-informed decisions about the benefits of each therapy and ensure that they refer only to experts with a proven track record.

The six therapies covered are:

  • acupuncture
  • herbal medicine
  • homeopathy
  • osteopathy
  • chiropractic
  • hypnotherapy and aromatherapy
The guidance will include information on what conditions would benefit most from treatment.

Primary care clinicians should be open-minded about the benefits of complementary medicine

Dr Michael Dixon, NHS Alliance

For instance, there is reasonable evidence supporting the use of acupuncture for low back pain.

However, research suggests that the technique is not more effective than a placebo for helping people to quit smoking.

The guidance also includes details of relevant qualifications and the bodies responsible for the registration of medically-qualified and non-medical practitioners.

It has been developed by the Department of Health in collaboration with the NHS Alliance, the National Association of Primary Care and the Foundation of Integrated Medicine.

Homeopathy is one of the therapies included in the guidance

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, said complementary therapies tended to focus on the whole person, while traditional medicine focused on disease.

"I sometimes hear colleagues talk disparagingly about the placebo effect of complementary therapies.

"What is that but the self-healing process of the individual patient?

"Primary care clinicians should be open-minded about the benefits of complementary medicine whether based on a western scientific rationale or not.

"The combination of mind and body that produces self-healing must be encouraged."

Dr Peter Smith, chairman of the National Association of Primary Care said: "This guide offers the opportunity for the NHS to begin to explore how therapies can become truly complementary rather than alternatives to orthodox medicine.

"For too long the proliferation of therapies and qualifications has confused GPs and the public, to the detriment of the credibility of many practitioners."

Michael Fox, of the Foundation of Integrated Medicine, said the guidance was "long overdue".

It has been shown that at least one in three people will complementary therapies at some time during their life.

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See also:

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Complementary medicine
23 Aug 99 | Health
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