More research to support the use of homeopathy and other therapies in improving health and well-being.       

Complementary and Alternative Therapies Backed for NHS Funding
 A major Government-funded study, carried out in Northern Ireland and commissiond by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, found there would be a range of benefits to patients in providing access to complementary and alternative medicine, and that the treatments could even save the health service money.
Treatments administered after referral from local GPs included acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, osteopathy, reflexology and aromatherapy.
The Health Minister in Northern Ireland has made the independent evaluation report available to download on the Department’s website. As well as an extensive report with detailed responses from patients, GPs and practitioners, using a validated audit tool, focus groups and surveys, the report has made recommendations about the way forward.
The ResultsThe Results
Following the pilot, 80% of patients reported an improvement in their symptoms, 64% took less time off work and 55% reduced their use of painkillers.
In the pilot, 713 patients with a range of ages and demographic backgrounds and either physical or mental health conditions were referred to various complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies via nine GP practices in Belfast and Londonderry. 
Homeopathy received the highest percentage of reported improvements :   In relation to treatment programme, patients who availed of chiropractic and osteopathy treatments (56%) were less likely to record an improvement in their level of wellbeing, compared with patients availing of acupuncture (77%) and homeopathic treatments (79%) (see page 31 of the report).       

Health improvement

• 81% of patients reported an improvement in their physical health
• 79% reported an improvement in their mental health
• 84% of patients linked an improvement in their health and wellbeing directly to their CAM treatment
• In 65% of patient cases, GPs documented a health improvement, correlating closely to patient-reported improvements
• 94% of patients said they would recommend CAM to another patient with their condition
• 87% of patient indicated a desire to continue with their CAM treatment

Painkillers and medication

• Half of GPs reported prescribing less medication and all reported that patients had indicated to them that they needed less
• 62% of patients reported suffering from less pain
• 55% reported using less painkillers following treatment
• Patients using medication reduced from 75% before treatment to 61% after treatment
• 44% of those taking medication before treatment had reduced their use afterwards

Health service and social benefits

• 24% of patients who used health services prior to treatment (i.e. primary and secondary care, accident and emergency) reported using the services less after treatment
• 65% of GPs reported seeing the patient less following the CAM referral
• Half of GPs said the scheme had reduced their workload and 17% reported a financial saving for their practice
• Half of GPs said their patients were using secondary care services less

Despite initial scepticism, the GPs involved were almost unanimously in favour after seeing tangible results. In 99% of patient 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.

(Source: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety : Evaluation – Complementary and Alternative Medicines Pilot Project in Northern Ireland, May 2008 (see web-link above); and circular email from Get Well UK)

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