In a sweeping move, the NHS decided to cut funds on complementary medicine citing funding issues. The agency decided to eliminate all prescripcriptions on homeopathic remedies, and on 17 other complementary treatments to favour alternatives will be either more cost effective, or effective in general. But this could have repercussions on other forms of alternative treatment in the future.

Cell therapy has expanded rapidly, though it is slowly being accepted by the mainstream due to concerns about effectiveness relative to the cost. Ethical concerns like the Harvard scandal in the US regarding embryonic stem cell research were also a factor. Yet the National Health Service has approved CAR T-cell therapy for lymphoma and other cutting edge, high-tech treatments. However, it often ignores alternatives that cost less and may be as effective in other cases. Should the NHS reconsider their view on complementary medicine?

The Public Interest in Complementary Medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine or CAM includes acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and massage. The percentage of the public that uses CAM rose from 12 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2015, while demand was steady across all age groups. On that basis alone, the NHS should consider increasing funding and acceptance of it. However, they should provide more funding to increase accessibility.

Usage is currently more prevalent among women, those in the south of England and the wealthy. This is due to the fact that the majority of complementary medicine users had to pay for it themselves or had it paid for by family. Most were either self-referred or referred by friends and family. Less than a quarter were referred by their general practitioner or another health professional. Ironically, those most likely to be referred by a health professional were those least likely to be able to afford it out of pocket.

Surveys show that the willingness to use complementary medicine is related to the ability to pay for it. But more would use it if they had help footing the bill. Around 13 percent of non-CAM users said they’d use it, though, if NHS or other organizations paid at least part of the bill.

The Natural Fit between NHS Goals and Complementary Medicine

NHS policy advocates patient centred care, patient self-management and prevention. Complementary medicine certainly aids in patient self-management when it comes to stress, sleep problems, and fatigue. It can provide patient centred care when it comes to back pain, musculoskeletal pain and mental health issues. Patients can choose the care provider and treatment regimen that suits them. Giving patients more tools to deal with their condition and letting them see the provider of their choice would bring NHS goals into alignment with the public’s needs. However, it is reasonable for the NHS to delay acceptance of given treatments until it is proven effective instead of just paying for herbal remedies, aromatherapy and whatever a patient asks for beyond the limited cases approved by NICE.

The Research Backs Up Complementary Medicine

The NHS wants to provide cutting edge care to patients. Alternatives like cell therapy for instance have been approved as we mentioned at the start of the article, though this takes time. The ethical concerns cause delays, but there are solutions such as using Harga Purtier Placenta instead of human embryonic stem cells. And for some patients, it is alternatives like these that are their only hope. However, complementary medicine can treat much more mundane conditions.

Ongoing studies are analyzing complementary medicine’s effectiveness in treating musculoskeletal and mental health problems. For example, one study found that acupuncture can be used to successfully treat alcohol dependency. It is a drug-free method of reducing withdrawal symptoms. These studies would provide more evidence in favour of CAM. And the studies to date do argue in favour of greater funding and access to CAM.

Complementary medicine is a popular choice, though it isn’t yet receiving the funding and support it deserves from NHS. More research into its effectiveness and more breakthroughs in treatment patients will likely turn the tide.

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