A year-long pilot scheme (2007/08) in Northern Ireland found impressive health benefits for patients offered complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) via the public health service.
A total of 713 patients with a wide range of age, background and physical and/or mental health conditions were referred to various CAM therapies via nine GP practices in Belfast and Londonderry. Patients assessed their own health and wellbeing pre and post therapy and GPs and CAM practitioners also rated patients’ responses to treatment and the overall effectiveness of the scheme. After treatment, 80% of patients reported an improvement in their symptoms, 64% took less time off work and 55% reduced their use of painkillers.
Naturally the CAM therapists were happy with the results but the real challenge was to overcome the scepticism, and in some cases cynicism, of the GPs. According to the study findings, the GPs were ‘almost unanimously in favour after seeing tangible results’. In 99% of cases, GPs said they would refer the patient, or a different patient, to the scheme again and in 98% of cases, GPs said they would recommend the service to other GPs. However, they also called for more information to help build their understanding of CAM therapies.
The full report is available, and I recommend you forward these results to colleagues who may welcome the chance to digest such positive support for the professions.
Evaluation of a CAM Pilot Project in Northern Ireland (2008). Health, Social Service and Public Safety. View Paper