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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Alternative therapy funding boost
Image of acupuncture
Therapies such as acupuncture will be more available
Patients in Northern Ireland are to get more access to alternative therapies under a new scheme announced by the health minister.

Paul Goggins is setting aside 200,000 to enable patients to receive complementary services as part of their health service treatment.

It means GPs can refer patients for therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy.

The scheme will commence in January and the first phase will run for a year.

The department will be contacting the boards about how the scheme will operate, including the criteria under which GPs will be able to apply for funding.

Mr Goggins said: "Complementary and alternative medicine and therapies have proven, in certain circumstances, to be extremely helpful.

Homeopathic medicines
The seminar also looked at homeopathic medicines

"I have been impressed and encouraged by the examples of good work that are already being carried out.

"I am delighted to announce a package of funding today that will enable GPs for the first time to refer patients directly to complementary therapists.

"I am committed to giving patients the widest choice of safe, effective, healthcare possible both in the traditional and regulated complementary health care sectors."

The minister announced the funding and the two new initiatives at the first seminar organised to explore the role of such therapies in the health service.

The seminar is looking at areas such as homeopathy, acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractic care.

Additional funding

Siobhan McErlean who had suffered chest pains is an advocate of acupuncture.

She said: "A week after my first treatment, I was able to stop using the tablets because the acupuncture was helping so much.

"If I had to do it again, I would pay for it myself again because it's so good."

The minister also announced additional funding for the introduction of an Integrated Health Awards and Integrated Health Associates schemes.

Both of these initiatives will run in partnership with the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health and will recognise and support the work carried out by complementary and alternative practitioners in Northern Ireland.

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