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Complementary medicine and the NHS: Experiences of integration with UK primary care

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-16
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Integrative Medicine
Early online date17 Oct 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 15 Oct 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Dec 2018


Introduction: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), often accessed privately, can be integrated with conventional care. Little is known about current integration in the UK National Health Service (NHS). We provide an overview of integrated CAM services accessed from UK primary care for musculoskeletal and mental health conditions, to identify key features and barriers and facilitators to integration. Methods: Descriptive analysis of integrated services accessed from primary care providing CAM alongside conventional NHS care for musculoskeletal and/or mental health problems. A purposive sample was identified through personal contacts, social media, literature/internet searches, conferences, and patient/professional organisations. Questionnaires, documentary analysis and stakeholder meetings collected data on the service's history, features, integration, success and sustainability. Data was tabulated. Results: From 38 sites identified, twenty sites were selected. Acupuncture and homeopathy were most common, followed by massage, osteopathy and mindfulness. GPs were often instrumental initiating services. NHS staff enthusiasm facilitated integration, as did an NHS setting, patient/public support, and being adjunctive to an NHS service. The main barriers to integration were funding, negative perceptions of CAM from the clinicians, funders and lobby groups, and local NHS staff attitudes/lack of knowledge. Reduced funding was often why services closed. Conclusions: Various models for integrating CAM with UK primary care were identified. Social prescribing and NHS/patient co-funded CAM may be potentially sustainable models for future integration. Lack of funding and negative perceptions of CAM remain the primary challenge to integration. Evaluating effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of integrated services is vital to ensure sustainability.

    Research areas

  • Comorbidity, Complementary therapies, General practice, Integrative medicine, Primary health care

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    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Elsevier at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 340 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY-NC-ND


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