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GPs have endorsed a major campaign to exhort the benefits of complementary therapies, with 120 becoming 'associates' of The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health, writes Emily Wright.
It aims to increase access to complementary medicine alongside conventional treatments.
The foundation's inaugural meeting at St James's Palace last week focused on a call for a network of GPs to become 'exemplar' practices in order to help the body 'change the way we see health care'.
Dr Mike Dixon, trustee of the foundation and a GP in Cullompton, Devon, said GPs had to 'open their eyes' to complementary therapies. He said: 'If we don't, we are dead as GPs.'
Dr Dixon insisted associates would not start lobbying ministers to provide more complementary services on the NHS. But he said GPs should be able to use savings derived from practice-based commissioning to develop them.
The network will set out to convince patients and GPs to 'open their minds to the idea that integrated health works', Dr Dixon added.
Dr Andrew Demitriou, an associate and a GP and homoeopath in Bury, called for more funding for research into complementary treatments.
He said: 'Half of our patients are deprived and are very grateful to be able to tap into this form of therapy.'
Dr Tim Robinson, an associate and GP in Beaminster, Dor-set, said more patients should be able to choose a complementary therapy as a first- line treatment.
But many GPs said they were reluctant to refer to complementary therapies, particularly without 'gold standard' evidence.
Dr Lis Rodgers, a GP in Doncaster, said: 'It would be diff-icult to get resources for treatments based on anecdotal evidence.'
Dr Richard Wright, a GP in Colchester, said: 'It's hard to justify something that doesn't have a good evidence base.'
Dr Kailash Chand, a GP in Manchester, said he had used acupuncture in the past with good results, but added that complementary medicine needed more research.
'Following it blindly is no good,' he said.