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October 07, 2005

Complementary Medicine and the NHS.

The Prince of Wales has backed a report that urges more use of complementary medicine in the NHS. No great surprise there really. But James Hamilton provides a clue to why it’s a bad idea.

To start at the beginning it’s only complementary because it doesn’t work in the scientific sense of "work".

It works because people have time, care and attention spent on them. And, intruigingly, they pay for it themselves (James’ point) which reinforces the thoughts that this is doing them good.

Make complementary medicine complimentary and it won’t work at all.

October 7, 2005 in Health Care | Permalink


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Prince Charles can try his luck and money with 'alternative' medicine if he wants, safe in the knowledge thet he can afford the very best conventional medical advice if he so desires. When I ask the NHS for medical assistance, I want tried and tested proper medicine for my tax cash, not strange, possibly crackpot treatment such as homeopathy.

Posted by: simon | Oct 7, 2005 9:27:34 AM

I'd say that complementary medicine doesn't "work" in the conventional sense; there may be the odd placebo effect thing going on. But I've been networking closely with complementary therapists in my area, and what I've seen through them is that people don't seem to go for complementary therapy expecting conventional style cures at all. It's a combination of wanting caring attention, wanting to feel better (and one thing most comp. therapies ARE good at is stress relief) and wanting to feel significant. So it's a lifestyle kind of thing. For most of these people, were anything truly worthy of the name of illness to come along, they'd be knocking their GP's door down in seconds.
Prince Charles actually does seem to believe in comp. medicine's ability to cure, and I find that more worrying. Because he believes in it more than the practitioners do, and he gets listened to.
As for paying for therapy - I find in my own practice that the clients who pay my top level fees are more committed and obtain better, faster results than the people I see on an income sliding scale. There are thousands of conclusions one could draw from that - one being that people with the determination to make that much money won't lack the determination to see a difficult course of treatment through to the end, and another being that people at every income level treat the cheap and the free with the same level of contempt.

Posted by: James Hamilton | Oct 7, 2005 10:38:08 AM

I have no objection to the state paying for alternative therapies. However I have one condition: patients who elect to receive alternative (or indeed conventional) treatment should not be permitted to switch to the other during the period of illness.

I think Mr Darwin will then let us decide who was right.

Posted by: JohnM | Oct 7, 2005 11:33:19 AM

Why do refer to your patients as clients, James?

Posted by: Rub-a-dub | Oct 7, 2005 6:55:55 PM