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Last Updated: Monday, 4 August, 2003, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
GPs offer alternative medicine
healing generic
Campaigners want complementary medicine in mainstream use
Two doctors surgeries have started referring patients on low incomes for alternative medicine on prescription.

The two-year pilot project will see acupuncture, art therapy and homeopathy practitioners working alongside GPs in Newlyn and Penzance.

The alternative therapy on offer is being paid for with a 40,000 grant from the National Lottery's neighbourhood renewal fund.

NHS doctors are already allowed to prescribe alternative therapy in some cases, depending on the local health trust's policies.

But the St Ives-based Complementary Health Initiative, which is behind the scheme, wants alternative therapies such as acupuncture, art therapy and cranial osteopathy offered more widely on the NHS.

I don't think Gordon Brown would welcome having to fund a new service that he is not having to fund at the moment
Dr Mark Russell

Dr Mark Russell, one of the GPs from the Alverton practice in Penzance, said: "Half our patients have had experience of complementary medicine anyway, so it's what people explore for themselves.

"It makes sense if we are dealing with people's healthcare that we recognise that and work with complementary therapists as much as we can.

"But whether the NHS can take on the funding long term, I don't know.

"It's struggling a bit at the moment to meet its day to day demands, and I don't think Gordon Brown would welcome having to fund a new service that he is not having to fund at the moment."

Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, said the case for complementary medicine on the NHS had still not been proven.

He said: "If complementary medicine helps people, then it has to be a good thing.

"However, if we cannot convincingly show that it does more good than harm it's not such a good thing.

"So we need evidence to support such initiatives."

He and his team at the medical school had been investigating the efficacy of complementary medicines for 10 years.

He said: "We want to find out whether these therapies do more good than harm, whether they are effective, whether they are safe and whether they reduce costs.

"The best data we have the moment is that it is an add-on cost, so I am a little sceptical whether it will be part of the NHS."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Professor Edzard Ernst
"We want to find out whether these therapies do more good than harm"



SEE ALSO:
Alternative medicine 'accepted'
11 Jul 03  |  Health
'Open-minded' healthcare
28 May 98  |  Health
Alternative medicine
08 Feb 03  |  Health


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