Changing the conversation about health

Freshwinds Integrated Medicine programme

CoM Tags:

Freshwinds, College of Medicine, Integrated Medicine programme

Established in 1992 the Integrated Medicine Programme is based at Freshwinds, a unique charity based in Birmingham.

Through the collective efforts of a strong team of medical and therapeutic professionals it offers innovative integrated care models to alleviate the health and well-being challenges faced by people living with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions.

The programme is built on an ethos of continual learning, which contributes to the development of new projects and activities.

Freshwinds was highly commended in the College of Medicine’s 2013 Innovations Awards.

Year established
Number of staff
7 paid staff, 51 volunteers
Number of users
380 users per year.
Is there a charge to users?
No charge to users.
Male – 32%, Female – 68%, White British – 45.5%, Indian – 12.6%, Pakistani – 12.6%, Black Caribbean – 9.2%, Unknown – 8.7%, Black African – 2.9%, White Irish – 2.9%, Other – 3.7%, Bangladeshi – 1.1%, Mixed – 0.5% Chinese – 0.3%
What makes your project sustainable?
Financially a varied source of funding is the key to being sustainable.  Environmentally, we have made use of modern technologies and IT resources to work more efficiently and reduce the need for things.
Our team of staff and volunteers consists of medical doctors, coordinators, complementary therapy assessors, complementary therapists, research assistants and admin assistants.Our key challenge is to deliver a safe, effective and appropriate complementary therapy service. This is achieved through team working, knowledge sharing between team members, evidence based practice, development of safety guidelines, monitoring adverse events, and involving the patient in their care plan.Patients and their families are encouraged to learn self care measures to maintain and improve their well-being and reduce their dependency on regular therapy sessions. This is enhanced by reinforcing healthy lifestyle messages around healthy eating, exercise, mental health, smoking, alcohol, etc.Projects:

  • In-house project – patients with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions access individual and group therapy sessions at the centre
  • Living Choices – outreach complementary therapies for adults receiving end of life care
  • Personal Budgets complementary therapies project (diabetes, COPD, mental health, multiple sclerosis)
  •  Emergency Hospital Admissions (EHA) self-management complementary therapy project to reduce the rate of EHA in patients with avoidable EHA
  • Child and Family complementary therapy workshops to enable families with therapeutic skills to use at home
  • Children’s Complementary Therapy Network (CCTN) – bringing together professionals interested in therapies for children
  • Freshwinds Institute of Integrated medicine (FIIM) – a social enterprise offering education and well-being services in integrated and complementary medicine


Patient-centred, whole person, preventative approach
therapy at freshwindsPatients participate in a holistic assessment to identify physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social difficulties they may be experiencing. This information is used to determine any safety precautions / contraindications to therapy and identify which complementary therapy or combination of therapies would be effective and appropriate for the patient, taking into consideration the patients expectations and any available evidence base.Each patient is viewed as an individual with specific and personal needs. Therefore three different people with the same diagnosis (e.g. breast cancer) might end up with very different packages of complementary therapies based on their individual needs. Once the package of care has begun, feedback from the therapist and the patient about their response to therapy, as well as any ongoing changes in the patient’s health and medical treatments, is used to tweak care as necessary.In addition to the provision of complementary therapies, the patient and their family (where applicable) are encouraged to learn self care measures to support their own health. These might be linked to the therapy they are receiving (e.g. simple massage skills) or more general measures (such as relaxation skills). We have developed a CD of visualizations that some patients find helpful.As well as one-to-one therapies, we try to arrange group therapy sessions (depending on the availability of appropriate volunteer therapists). To date we have had Breathworks courses, yoga groups and meditation groups. Such group sessions reinforce to the patient that they can learn skills that they can continue to use at home for themselves. They also have the added benefit of engaging patients in peer support and social interaction. In the past we also organised some sessions of Reiki 1 and Reiki 2 training that were accessed by patients.

Our child and family complementary therapy workshops were designed to teach families of children with significant health problems simple complementary therapy skills that they can continue to use at home, not just for the benefit of the child but for the benefit of the whole family. Such skills also help to bring the whole family together.

Our emergency hospital admissions project was specifically designed to incorporate a large component of learning self care measures to try and reduce avoidable emergency hospital admissions in people with chronic conditions. Interim analysis suggests that this has been successful in a number of participants.

We recognise the impact of a person’s health and well-being on the rest of the family and vice-versa. Taking this into consideration, in some of our integrated medicine projects we offer supportive complementary therapies to the patients’ carers as well as encouraging the carers to engage with self care measures as well.

Promoting healthy life-style measures (e.g. healthy eating, exercise, mental health, smoking, alcohol, etc) is another facet of our patient care. The importance of this has been chrystalised over the past year due a Community Health Champions project within Freshwinds through which we have been enabling volunteers with the skills and knowledge to improve the health and well-being of their local communities underpinned with healthy lifestyle messages. >

Where complementary therapies cannot fully meet the holistic needs of the patient (e.g. employment, financial and housing difficulties) we signpost or refer the patient to additional services as required (including other projects within Freshwinds equipped to help with such problems, as well as external services).

Service user feedback and involvement is actively encouraged and acted upon. This includes both ad hoc feedback given by patients verbally or in writing, as well as feedback through a service user forum that we have developed.

Evidence-informed practice/audit and evaluation
The use of evidence underpins all of our work. This includes the use of evidence in the design of a new project or for planning individual client care.To evaluate our outcomes we have used a variety of assessment and data recording tools, both qualitative and quantitative. These include validated tools such as the MYMOP, and also our own project specific outcomes questionnaires.Consideration of, and the development of, safety guidelines is one of the cornerstones of our work. To support this we have developed an adverse events reporting system and are developing a database of precautions and contraindications. Patients have individualised confidential client records that chronologically identify their treatments and progress. The client records also have a special precautions sheet that the therapist has to read before each therapy session in case new precautions have been implemented since their last session due to changes in the patient’s health or medical treatments.Reports on the evaluation of our projects can be viewed here.
Multi-disciplinary collaboration, communication and professional practice
Within our multi-disciplinary team of doctors and different complementary therapists, the sharing of knowledge and experience through case discussions and team meetings ensures good practice for the patient.This is further enhanced by effective communication and co-operation with external professionals involved with the patient (such as their doctors and specialist nurses). This includes, with the consent of the patient, informing the external professionals of our care plan, advocating with them about relevant needs expressed by the patient, and liaising with them about any concerns highlighted by the patient or discovered through our holistic assessment that may require further follow-up / investigation.As such, we are often considered as part of the extended multi-disciplinary team involved with the patient, and health professionals feel confident to refer patients to us. Maintaining proper professional boundaries when working in this integrative and multi-disciplinary setting is important and is part of our policies and procedures of practice.We are careful to explore the expectations of our patients and emphasise to them that our support is designed to complement their existing medical care from their consultant, GP, nurses etc, not replace it (i.e. it is complementary, not alternative, to their routine care). We also emphasise that we are not offering cures. This is especially important as our patients are mostly adults and children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions.

Freshwinds is accessible for people with disabilities and has a robust equality and diversity ethos. Patients’ social and cultural needs are taken into account when planning their care package.

In addition to supporting our patients, Freshwinds also values and supports its staff and volunteers. Every month we have a Thoughtfulness Day when the staff and volunteers are encouraged to spend some time being thoughtful about themselves as well as thoughtful of people around them and of society in general. Supportive complementary therapy sessions are also often provided for staff and volunteers as part of Thoughtfulness day.

All our staff and volunteers undergo a rigorous recruitment process during which we ensure that they have the correct qualifications, skills and experience relevant to the work they are going to do. Where necessary, new staff and volunteers shadow existing ones to gain relevant experience. We require our staff and volunteers to engage in continued professional development and support this with internal training and learning opportunities as well as signposting them to relevant external opportunities.


Quotes from users
“Freshwinds is really helping the people & carers I really appreciate their efforts, especially Dr S is very kind and helpful. Thanks for all your support and help”. “Prior to treatment I was very dependent on my wife for assistance I have found that since having treatment I am more self reliant i.e. showering – my wife had to assist me, but now I can manage on my own. My breathing capacity and function has definitely improved and there is a marked improvement to my general well-being. Thank you”. “I am sleeping better after each session I feel more positive and able to relax. The treatment usually keeps pain at a manageable level for at least 2 weeks. I would not feel so positive about dealing with my illness without the help of acupuncture. It is teaching me how to help myself.” “My child has benefited from complementary therapies she still has infection, but fewer than before. Her sleep has improved slightly.” “[Child] does seem more happier, calmer, and relaxed in himself, friends have even commented on the difference they see in [child].”

“More relaxed. Able to accept being touched. Feels ‘special’ rather than ‘abnormal’.” [Mother talking about her child].


Contact details
Dr Pankaj Shah
Prospect Hall
12 College Walk
Selly Oak
t: 0121 4156670