Prime Minister’s Questions today, 25th April, brought something you don’t normal see in the weekly exchange in the House of Commons…a question on homeopathy.
Amidst the questions on Brexit and other political issues, David Tredinnick MP asked, ”Is my Right Honourable friend aware that according to the World Health Organisation, the second largest medical system in the world with 300,000 doctors treating two hundred million patients every year, is homeopathy. That’s the evidence, that’s evidence. Will my Right Honourable friend congratulate the doctors who are members of the Faculty of Homeopathy on their work in the Health Service and particularly dealing with cases that are too difficult to treat conventionally, and does she agree with me that homeopathic vets should be able to make their own minds up about whether they use homeopathy on its own or other treatments as well?”
Prime Minister Theresa May replied “Can I say to this Honourable Friend he has been a long standing advocate in this house for homeopathy, and obviously some patients who are treated in the NHS, and in the private sector are users of complementary and alternative therapies, but it is the responsibility of the local NHS to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of healthcare treatments, and to take account of issues around safety, clinical and cost effectiveness, and the availability of suitably qualified and regulated practitioners, and I think for all the issues that he’s addressed it is right that those who are professionally able to make these judgements are left to make those judgements.”
A predictable answer perhaps, but Theresa May referred to her notes more than any other question, so good to keep her on her toes!
A major review published in the Lancet has found that millions of people with back pain are being given the wrong treatment.
Lower back pain is now the leading cause of disability in the UK. It is responsible for more than one in 10 of all serious health complaints and costs the NHS £2.1 billion annually.
Estimates say that it costs the UK economy around £10 billion in lost working days and informal care.
Anyone who has suffered from back pain (this writer included) knows that there is no miracle solution, and it takes time to learn what works to alleviate your own symptoms and pain. However, many patients are needlessly being prescribed strong painkillers, wrongly told to rest or even undergoing unnecessary surgery in a bid to treat lower back pain. This is despite mounting evidence showing that simple exercises and stretches are more effective for easing symptoms.
NICE advises that people with back pain are prescribed exercise, drugs such as ibuprofen, or both at the same time. Not only is the NHS’s approach failing to achieve the desired results, it is also costing millions of pounds worth of taxpayer’s money.
It is clear is that one size does not fit all in terms of managing the pain. Every patient is different. However, if existing treatments are not working we should be looking more at massage, exercise, yoga, acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic and Alexander Technique to name but a few. Let us see which of these options might suit the individual patient’s needs.
NHS England has just undertaken a cost-saving exercise with the purported aim of saving the NHS money. If that is so, why is this scandalous waste of NHS resources allowed to continue?
GP surgeries with doctors who have training in complementary medicines appear less likely to prescribe antibiotics to patients, a study publish in the BMJ Open Journal suggests.
Researchers from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, led by the University of Bristol, used NHS Digital monthly prescribing data for 2016 from 7,274 GP surgeries. They compared this with nine practices that had GPs with training in integrated medicine, looking at overall prescribing of antibiotics and prescribing of these drugs for respiratory tract infections and urinary tract infections.
Practices with GPs who had additional training in integrated medicine had significantly lower antibiotic prescribing rates than those with conventional GPs, the study found. Doctors with the additional training also prescribed noticeably fewer antibiotics for patients with respiratory tract infections, though there was no difference when it came to patients with urinary tract infections. This difference could be explained by patients seen by GPs trained in integrated medicine being less keen on receiving antibiotics, or the practices having other avenues to offer patients.
The authors said: “For the majority of respiratory tract infections, it is recommended that antibiotics should be avoided or delayed, so that this is an area where the desired reduction in prescribing could take place. Additional treatment strategies for common primary care infections used by practices with GPs trained in integrative medicine should be explored to see if they could be used to assist in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.”
The pool of practices with GPs trained in integrated medicine was small. As such, results were limited by the lack of data of number of consultations, individual GP characteristics, individual deprivation scores and continuum of care. However, the difference seen in antibiotic prescribing rates seen at practices with GPs trained in integrated medicine warrants further study.
Bill Gates was recently Guest Editor for an edition of Time Magazine. He talks about the need to remain optimistic is the face of a continual barrage of bad news, saying that the world is overall getting better.
Complementary healthcare faces continuous attacks and criticism from those determined to see its demise.
In his article Bill Gates says, “So why does it feel like the world is in decline? I think it is partly the nature of news coverage. Bad news arrives as drama, while good news is incremental—and not usually deemed newsworthy. A video of a building on fire generates lots of views, but not many people would click on the headline “Fewer buildings burned down this year.”
What those involved in complementary healthcare should remember is that patients continue to seek help from complementary therapists, and thousands of complementary therapists improve the quality of life of people every single day. That is never going to get front page news coverage.
Conventional medicine is still failing to deliver the individual person-centred care that modern healthcare demands. As Bill Gates says,”When you see good things happening, you can channel your energy into driving even more progress.” Complementary healthcare needs to be positive about its contribution, make noise about it, and not let the headline grabbing negativity drown it out.
You can read the whole of Bill Gates’ article below:
In November, a joint report of the Professional Standards Authority and the Royal Society for Public Health looked at how accredited registers’ practitioners can make a significant contribution to promoting and protecting the public’s health.
This report, which is based on a survey of more than 4,500 practitioners in the accredited registers workforce, reveals the extent to which practitioners on accredited registers can contribute to addressing the growing public health crises in the UK. It found both a willingness and ability to promote the public’s health through healthy lifestyle conversations and effective signposting with patients. It also outlines some of the barriers which stop the UK making the most of the accredited registers’ workforce.
The report concluded, “Practitioners on accredited registers make a large contribution to promoting the public’s health, and this report has drawn out some of the many ways they encourage and promote healthy behaviour and lifestyles in the UK. It is a key principle of the wider public health workforce that every contact between a professional and a member of the public can and should be capitalised upon in any number of ways to support their health and wellbeing. Despite this, it is clear that the large majority of AR practitioners consider themselves to be under-utilised in promoting the public’s health.”
“Meeting the challenges outlined in this report will require the best practice in brief interventions, such as healthy conversations and accurate signposting advice, to be embedded more systematically in the AR workforce. Combined with the significant appetite among accredited registers to play a larger role in supporting the public’s health, the impact of these interventions can be extended as much as possible. With 80,000 practitioners now on accredited registers, many of whom naturally engage their clients in lifestyle discussions as part of their work already, this workforce should be recognised as an untapped resource that has both the opportunity and ability to positively impact the public’s health.”
The Government is supportive of the idea of accredited registers. Surely it’s time to make best use of them?