Complementary Therapy In Conventional Health Care

Complementary therapy in the NHSComplementary therapy is gaining popularity within the NHS

Complementary therapy has seen a significant increase in its use within the NHS over the last ten years. While not all complementary therapy disciplines are available, and those that are depend on budgetary restrictions and location, the increase suggests a shift towards validation of treatments that were once deemed unconventional. But rather than being a pioneering step for the NHS, complementary therapy has in fact been used by the health service since its inception.

Homeopathy is a therapy that aims to aid the body’s healing process by using diluted natural substances and has been used in the NHS since 1948.

The benefits of complementary therapy

Evidence of complementary therapy’s effectiveness alongside conventional treatments can be found in reports that highlight benefits such as patient satisfaction, reduced prescriptions and fewer referrals. The majority of complementary therapy is used in primary healthcare through GPs using homeopathic treatment or practice nurses using hypnotherapy or reflexology. Many complementary therapists (the most common being osteopaths) without a conventional healthcare background are now working privately in general practices around the country.

Further evidence to the validation of complementary therapy within conventional medicine can be found in secondary healthcare. One of the well documented complementary therapies, acupuncture, is finding an effective use among healthcare professionals within pain clinics. Many people advocate acupuncture as an effective treatment for chronic pain and acupuncturists are seeing an increase in visits from chronic pain sufferers. As with many complementary therapies, acupuncture has very few negative side-effects giving the therapy another distinct advantage over traditional pain-managing medications. Anaesthetists, physiotherapists and palliative care physicians within NHS pain clinics are now utilising acupuncturists for pain management.

Within physiotherapy and rheumatology departments, complementary therapies that use manipulative techniques are working alongside traditional physical therapy. Hospices are finding aromatherapy, reflexology, massage and hypnosis are proving beneficial for nurses, doctors and occupational therapists treating patients. Within clinical psychology, hypnotherapy and relaxation training are helping psychologists in their work while midwives and physiotherapists in obstetrics utilise yoga and acupuncture. Also, many complementary therapies can be delivered in a group setting which can prove cost effective to conventional practice.

Better complementary therapy choice with private practice

While complementary therapy is moving toward positive conventional medicine validation, the demand has proved overwhelming to general practice. Even a highly publicised campaign by the Prince of Wales to widen access to complementary therapy has failed to secure funding. Increased public access to complementary therapy seems unlikely given the NHS struggles to close deficits that have led to redundancy among nurses and limited availability of life-saving drugs. Confidence in alternative treatments is not enough to pay the bills.

With a lack of funding and limited choice of therapies, the majority of people choose to attend private complementary therapy sessions that suit their demands and expectations. A private complementary therapy practitioner provides the necessary resources, perspective and time for evaluation and adjustment that is not readily available from a national healthcare service.

Provision of complementary therapy within the NHS is currently at a disadvantage due to shorter appointment times that can fall short of complete therapeutic consultation. Also, for many healthcare professionals, complementary therapy forms only a small part of their work schedule and their training may only be basic. Confidence in complementary therapy grows each year and the availability of highly trained private therapists in every area of complementary medicine can meet the demands and expectations of the general public’s increasing interest.

Article Submitted By
Daniel Alexander, GoToSee Journalist

Date Published


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