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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Complementary medicine on NHS
Peter Hain and Prince Charles
Peter Hain and Prince Charles both support complementary medicines
Patients in Wales could be offered complementary medicine such as acupuncture and homeopathy on the NHS.

The proposals have been put forward by Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, who says he has the support of both Tony Blair and the Prince of Wales.

Mr Hain, who is also leader of the Commons, said he wants to see Wales act as a model for the UK for further development on complementary medicine.

Welsh Health Minister Jane Hutt is now considering a pilot scheme.

Around one in five adults in the UK are estimated to have used some form of complementary medicine.

Under Mr Hain's proposals, Welsh GPs may be able to refer their NHS patients to dieticians and reflexologists.

Popular complementary medicines
Herbal medicine
Massage Therapy

Mr Hain, who uses complementary medicine himself, claims his son's asthma went after he was given advice about his diet.

Cardiff GP Dr Andrew Dearden, who is the Chair of the BMA's Welsh GPs' committee, said it sounded like a good idea.

"I suspect we would need a list of conditions that could be treated, and a list of people who have contracts with the NHS, so the NHS can ensure they are properly trained," he said.

"I would have some difficulty prescribing a tablet or medicine I had no training with.

"I think the referral to a practising practitioner would be the way forward."

Talks are under way between the assembly government, the Department of Health and the Prince of Wales Foundation.

Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine

A guide for Welsh patients on complementary treatments is also under development.

Mr Hain said: "The Welsh assembly government is looking into opportunities to support complementary therapies on the NHS in Wales.

"They have been liaising both with the Department of Health and the Prince of Wales' Foundation on these issues."

An assembly government spokesperson confirmed discussions had taken place.

"The Welsh Assembly Government is now looking into opportunities to support complementary therapies within the NHS in Wales," she added.

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas said: "We welcome the consideration of a pilot scheme for offering complementary medicine on the NHS.

"Some complementary therapies do have a role alongside orthodox medicine. However, we should ensure a structure is put in place to ensure the NHS can check there is proper training and regulation of the practitioners involved".

Last year, Prince Charles called for everyone in the UK to have access to complementary medicine.

However, in July, he was criticised by a leading cancer expert for embracing "unproven therapies".

Professor Michael Baum of University College London said Prince Charles had "overstepped the mark" by promoting some treatments.

A spokesman for the Prince of Wales rejected the criticisms.

The private complementary health market is expected to be worth 200m a year by 2008.

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