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Complementary therapies don't save NHS money

By Nigel Praities

Complementary therapies can improve quality of life but there is little evidence they reduce NHS costs, new research concludes.

The first study to review all the evaluations of NHS complementary therapy services showed positive changes in the health status of patients but mixed evidence on cost.

The University of Bristol researchers collated data from 21 evaluations of 14 NHS services and found SF36 general health scores were increased in all studies where they were measured, with increases ranging from 0.5 to 8.9.

Figures on costs were variable, with a study of a homeopathy service showing total prescription savings of nearly £9,000, but others showing no change or increases in costs of around 50 pence per patient.

Dr Lesley Wye, lead author and research fellow in primary health at the University of Bristol, said: ‘The health status data seems to suggest that people using these services are feeling better, that they notice some sort of a difference.

‘But in terms of NHS cost it was all over the place. Some of them showed the cost went up, some went down and some it stayed the same,' she said.

The researchers warned there was a need for ‘greater rigour' in how the NHS measures the success of complementary therapies, with more data on health outcomes and a better evaluation of costs.

Dr Catherine Zollman, a GP who provides several complementary therapies at her practice in Bristol, said the study showed how difficult it was to collect data on the benefits of complementary therapies, but that this did not mean they were not useful for some patients.

‘I think it depends on the patient and the condition, but I think there are certain pockets where the NHS could make really big savings,' she said.

The study was published this month in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal.

Complementary therapy does not save the NHS money says report Complementary therapy does not save the NHS money says report

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