Complementary therapies on the NHS: The NAHAT survey
Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
The NAHAT survey gives an interesting overview of the use of and attitudes towards complementary therapies on the NHS. Purchasers appear to have positive attitudes towards the funding of at least some complementary therapies. However, there is a striking lack of consistency in purchasers' decisions and policies. This appears to stem from low levels of information on complementary medicine, particularly on the question of effectiveness. Factors inhibiting the use of complementary therapies on the NHS appear to be lack of proof on efficacy and cost-effectiveness, and the fear of uncontrolled demand. The study concludes: 'Before any rational decisions can be taken about complementary therapies, their effectiveness and and appropriate uses need to be determined. A critical review of all available evidence on the effectiveness of complementary therapies needs to be undertaken by credible and independent researches... and the findings should be widely disseminated'. Such sentiments are similar to those of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine (RCCM). The RCCM is currently sponsoring a number of projects concerned with a formal systematic review of complementary medicine research. The RCCM is also actively promoting its database of published research on complementary medicine. The NAHAT study also calls for: - Additional research into complementary therapies; - Evaluation of complementary therapy services currently available within the NHS; - Research into the cost/benefits of complementary therapy; - The development of standards for training and qualification. However, although these recommendations should be applauded, the survey as a whole must be seen as deeply flawed. This is because it fails to incorporate figures on complementary therapies as practised by orthodox health professionals as a routine part of mainstream care, surely the foundation of any effective usage of complementary therapies on the NHS.