Community

From the very start of Sefton Park Natural Therapy Centre we had the intention of making our therapies available to the community we were situated in, namely south Liverpool

To that end I have personally addressed meetings of local GPs and occasionally GP practices to discuss how complementary and alternative therapies might help their patients. From this activity over the years a small number of GPs have either referred patients to Sefton Park Natural Therapy Centre, or arranged consultations through NHS funding. I see this as a good sign and hope that as Practice Based Commissioning matures, more GP’s will consider sending their patients.

The issue here is one of access to good medicine, if what we do work, why cannot more people gain access to it ? Progress towards genuine choice of treatment within the NHS is very slow, but there is a steady build up of consumer pressure to explore drug free alternative methods of managing personal health problems.

Almost every week now we hear of so called wonder drugs having problems, or being shown to be less effective than the drug companies want us to believe. Recently it has been Seroxat and Gaviscon under the limelight, with Government Agencies saying that there has been a serious distortion in the information given out by the drug companies, either disregarding risk associated with these drugs, or downplaying the evidence that suggested that they did not work at all. Similarly with the drug Vioxx the Government had to intervene to take a dangerous drug off the market.

Sefton Park Natural Therapy Centre takes the view that there are many effective remedies and cure within complementary, alternative and natural therapies that are not being explored as treatment options for patients wanting to avoid potentially dangerous drug regimes. Also that there is a lack of good information to help people make decisions about their healthcare.

There needs to be a better dialogue about the alternatives that do work and are safe, at the moment there is no neutral forum for that debate to take place. The medical profession do not have the time or the expertise to properly evaluate complementary, alternative and natural therapies; and the drug companies need to get their own house in order before they can criticise ourselves about the quality of our data.

Croxteth Communiversary

There are agencies like the Prince of Wales Foundation for Integrated Healthcare that do try to provide objective information about non-conventional medicine (i.e. all those therapies that are outside of the NHS), and most of the complementary and alternative therapies Governing bodies are actively engaged in promoting evaluation and research into the effectiveness of their treatments. We have taken the position that we cannot wait till what we do is proven to everyone’s’ satisfaction. Some people will never believe in what we do, and that is the way that it is, regardless of the quality of proof we develop. That does not stop us continuing to ask about our effectiveness, and there is now an international body of clinical research evidence that can be used to show that what we do works, such that any global statement that ‘ there is no evidence that complementary and alternative therapy works’ is no longer a scientifically valid statement. Our position is that we can evaluate the worth of our therapies by conducting small scale pilot studies and gradually collecting the data to demonstrate our effectiveness. With that in mind we have been involved with several local and national pilot studies to make holistic therapies more available to local communities.

My own experience in this field is as follows:

1989 to present day — Liverpool Centre for Health

From 1989 to 1992 I was part of a steering committee that set up Liverpool Centre for Health a pilot project to make Complementary and Alternative Medicine available via GP referral.

From 1992 to present I have been part of the therapy team delivering a range of complementary therapies (Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Osteopathy, Remedial Massage and Counselling) to a limited GP catchment area in North Liverpool.

The project has been evaluated over many years and consistently shown that over 70% of the patients experience symptom reduction. The profiles of people who get referred tend to have chronic conditions, often having had them over 5 years or more. They usually have complex presentations, that is problems affecting more than one location in the body, and they often get referred to the service after having exhausted the remedies available within the NHS. Over 80% of the patients express a desire to be free of long term medication.

In short what we have shown is that Complementary and Alternative Medicine can be successful with a group of chronic, complex NHS patients who have had not found any remedy for their condition within the NHS, as measured by standardised evaluation instruments.

Other similar projects in the Northwest and nationally based in GP practices and Community locations have shown very similar results, and where some cost-effective measures have been included the cost of providing CAM therapies in these communities has been matched by the savings made to the NHS providers. That is when reduction in medication, secondary care, further investigations, and use of GP time and secondary referrals have been costed the CAM therapies have been at least cost neutral. One GP surgery in Bury estimated savings of £70,000 per year due to using CAM therapies. The implications for cost savings within the NHS are enormous.

There is a short video clip of some of my NHS patients on the Multimedia page of this site. The obvious conclusion is that where there are safe effective CAM remedies for patients, and that these patients wish to explore alternative approaches to managing their own health needs, then we can build on these pilot studies and move towards more properly evaluated studies within the NHS.

Why this does not happen belongs to the world of vested interests and politics, which we cannot comment on, only to say that in the name of patient choice, access to good health care and equity there is much to do!