NHS to pay for homeopathy and acupuncture treatments


Monday 2nd November, 2009

A proposed personal health budget scheme will allow patients to spend NHS money on treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

Other services that will be available through the scheme include personal assistants, transport and other complementary therapies.

The details of the scheme, which have recently been released by the DoH, state that anyone ‘capable of managing a direct payment’ will receive one as part of personal health budget pilots running in 20 Primary Care Trusts.

The pilots involve thousands of GPs who allocate the money by drawing up care plans with patients. The plans are then reviewed regularly.

The document from the Department of Health states that money could be spent on services as long as they are legal and appropriate for the Government to fund.

However, the plans for personal budgets have been criticised by the General Practitioners Committee who see the proposals as distracting for already over-stretched GPs.

‘This is adding unnecessary additional bureaucracy at a time when the NHS is going to have to make savage cuts. There seems to be nothing that cannot be achieved through effective practice-based commissioning,’ said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Edgware, Middlesex and GPC negotiator.

‘I think there seems to be some confusion in Government policy. On the one hand they have been quite clear that the NHS should use resources based on evidence-based guidance developed by NICE, but there seems to be some confusion about the degree of flexibility patients will have. For example most complementary therapies are not supported by NICE guidance.’

NHS Alliance chairperson and GP Dr Michael Dixon is a supporter of complementary medicine integration into the NHS but believes the scheme will only work if patients can keep within their budget.

‘Patients with budgets will be allowed to go outside NICE guidelines, but need to pay for reasonable things provided they are within budget,’ he said.

‘One major issue will be to see if they are good at keeping to budget and possibly save money in a cold financial climate. If they are not they will wither on the vine.’

Payments could be used for services such as physiotherapy for chronic pain, acupuncture, homeopathy, personal care assistants, transportation to treatment sessions, respite care or air conditioners for people with respiratory conditions.

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