Online network Therapy Directory recently asked the public if complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) should be made free on the NHS. The overall response was that yes – free CAM should be made widespread to prevent illness, speed up NHS waiting times and step in when orthodox medicine comes up short.
Findings from a survey conducted by Therapy Directory between June 2012 and January 2013* show that Britons want easier access to alternative therapies such as massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and homeopathy on the NHS.
There has been much debate over the public use of CAM in recent years, with many experts questioning the effectiveness and safety of some alternative therapies and medicines on offer.
In 2006, thirteen eminent doctors wrote to every NHS trust in the country, urging them to stop funding ‘bogus’, ‘unproven treatments’. Pumping money into treatments like massage, homeopathy and reflexology was, they wrote, unacceptable in light of widespread staff cuts and ward closures.
However, not everybody agreed. Speaking at the World Health Assembly in Geneva the same year, the Prince of Wales said it would be a mistake to dismiss traditional healthcare so readily.
“The proper mix of proven complementary, traditional and modern remedies can help create a powerful healing force in the world,” the Prince said.
Other experts pointed out that most antibiotics used in Western healthcare are, like most types of CAM, based on anecdotal evidence rather than actual clinical trials. What matters is whether the treatment works for the individual – not how much data has been gathered about said treatment. These experts claimed that treatment should be based on what kind of patient has the disease, not what kind of disease the patient has.
Recent statistics show public demand is high for CAM, with one in five people in the UK spending money on private treatments for a range of ailments**. According to the Therapy Directory survey, people most commonly seek CAM for relaxation, back-pain and mental health problems. The three most popular types of CAM used by respondents are massage, reflexology and aromatherapy, while the three least popular are naturopathy, kinesiology and shiatsu.
As for the effectiveness of CAM, 11% of respondents said their problem went away completely, while 44% said their problem was reduced. Just over a fifth (22%) of respondents said that while CAM did not cure their problem, they still found the experience enjoyable.
With such promising results, it is no wonder 92% of Therapy Directory respondents said they’d like to see CAM made more readily available on the NHS and, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, it’s not just the public who think this. A significant 85% of medical students and 76% of GPs agree that the government should invest more money in CAM***.
Respondents said free CAM would open up effective treatment to those who can’t normally afford private healthcare. Others said it would boost the profile of some treatments and erase common misconceptions about CAM. A number of people said CAM can effectively step in wherever Western healthcare comes up short – 30.4% of respondents said they chose CAM because orthodox medicine didn’t work for them, while 7.4% said they chose it because NHS waiting lists were too long.
Western doctors tend to treat patients symptom by symptom but restrictions – namely time and money – prevent them from assessing each person as a whole. In contrast most CAM practitioners incorporate a holistic approach into their practice by looking at the history, outlook and lifestyle of each patient. Because many illnesses are caused by poor nutrition, inactivity and negative thoughts and behaviours, a more holistic approach to healthcare could prevent illness and even save money for the NHS in the long run.
While interest in CAM continues to rise in the UK, the NHS remains reluctant to fully integrate it into the healthcare system due to concerns over regulation, effectiveness and of course cost. Access to free CAM is currently a postcode lottery and only a select few therapies are available for particular conditions. However, a wide variety of complementary and alternative therapies, including massage, reflexology and aromatherapy, are available privately through qualified practitioners registered with professional bodies.
About Therapy Directory
Therapy Directory is an online directory for qualified practitioners in the UK. We make sure every professional listed provides as much information as possible about their qualifications, experience, specialisms and practices so visitors know exactly what they’re getting before they book. As well as offering an intuitive search system, we also provide a wealth of unbiased information about complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), from popular therapies like aromatherapy and massage, to less well-known practices like naturopathy and shiatsu.
We know people are curious about CAM and we recognise its potential for improving the health and happiness of our society. Because of this, we want to promote widespread use by becoming a leading site for information and contacts in this industry.
To contact us at our Surrey offices for further information, please call 0844 8030 243.
*Therapy Directory figures based on an online survey taken by visitors between June 2012 an January 2013.
**Daily Mail, ‘Why You Could Get Alternative Treatment On The NHS’ – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-55405/Why-alternative-treatment-NHS.html#axzz2Kh8Q1amo
***Alziemer’s Association, ‘Complementary and alternative therapies and dementia’ – http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=134