Changing the conversation about health

Commissioning cost-saving complementary medicine is the future for integrated health

Retired barrister Richard Eaton blogs on why both complementary and conventional medical practitioners – and their patients – should be lobbying the Government on the increased use of complementary medicine in mainstream care…

In October 2005, further to its commission by HRH The Prince of Wales, Economist Christopher Smallwood led the publication of The Role of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the NHS: An Investigation into the Potential Contribution of Mainstream Complementary Therapies to Healthcare in the UK. The paper concluded as follows:

“…Our main conclusion is that there appears to be sufficient evidence to suggest that some complementary therapies, listed in the report, may be more effective than conventional approaches in treating certain chronic and psychosocial conditions, and that specific treatments offer the possibility of cost savings, particularly where they can be provided in place of, rather than in addition to, orthodox treatments.

Our principal recommendation therefore is that Health Ministers should invite the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to carry out a full assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the therapies which we have identified and their potential role within the NHS, in particular in relation to the closing of ‘effectiveness gaps.'”

In March 2016, The Kings Fund published its report Bringing together physical and mental health: A new frontier for integrated health about which a discussion can be viewed here and a blog by the Federation of Holistic Therapists may be read here.

In the News & Analysis section of its Health and Wellbeing Board Bulletin (published 06.06.17), The Kings Fund also highlighted the article published in The Lancet on 23.05.17 titled Forecasted trends in disability and life expectancy in England & Wales up to 2025: a modelling study which concludes:

‘…The rising burden of age-related disability accompanying population ageing poses a substantial societal challenge and emphasises the urgent need for policy development that includes effective prevention interventions…’

In the light of the above and having regard to research such as that relating to the worsening mental well-being of year 10 school children, both complementary and conventional medical practitioners and their patients could lobby relevant Government departments, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care regarding the potential of Complementary Medicine as a cost-saving contributor to preventative and integrated medicine and healthcare.

In his Economic Outlook published in The Sunday Times on 23.04.17, Economist David Smith predicted frightening health spending as doubling from roughly 7 per cent of gross domestic product to over 12.5 per cent over the next 40-50 years and that social care costs will also double to 2 per cent of GDP.

Health spending policy makers and Clinical Commissioning Groups would do well to keep these (long-term) numbers in mind when assessing the potential contribution of Complementary and integrated medicine.

Further information about integrated and complementary medicine may be found in the Elsevier publications Advances in Integrative Medicine and the European Journal of Integrative Medicine and by accessing British Medical Journal (BMJ) articles such as Complementary therapies for labour and birth study: a randomised controlled trial of antenatal integrative medicine for pain management in labour (as amended), which concludes:

‘…The Complementary Therapies for Labour and Birth study protocol significantly reduced epidural use and caesarean section. This study provides evidence for integrative medicine as an effective adjunct to antenatal education, and contributes to the body of best practice evidence…’

For further research and debate about the cost-effective integration of Complementary Medicine into the NHS, please refer to the August and February 2017 issues of Richard Eaton’s complementary medicine blog, which may be found on the ‘Complementary’ page of this website.