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It's time to support holistic therapies

Thank you, Dr Michael Dixon, for your refreshing views on complementary medicine (Opinion, 7 June).

You wrote that a deeper scientific approach looking at the whole of a patient's treatment is necessary, 'otherwise science and patients will go in opposite directions and both will suffer'. This is so true. Never in my 15-year history as a practice nurse have I had to defend the profession's scientific arrogance as much as I do now.

Patients are asking questions that we cannot answer after they have read the side-effects of some medication. Whether just by knowing these side-effects they develop psychosomatic physical effects, I do not know. The upsurge of GP prescribing of statins, the change from one statin to another and the change from atenolol to ramipril (to name just a few changes) have all increased the number of patients who specifically make appointments because they are suffering side-effects. Whatever happened to the holistic care that some of us were trained to implement?

Scientific research is meant to help save humanity, yet every day we can see that science has become inhuman. What a dichotomy. The consolation is that I have worked with GPs like Dr Dixon – open-minded and willing to look at a bigger picture when dealing with patients. Hopefully, many other practitioners will come on board and put pressure on science to raise the profile of complementary therapies and carry out unbiased scientific research on these therapies, which are driven by humanity, rather than money.

Florence Durrant, practice nurse, east London

I applaud Dr Michael Dixon for his defence of complementary medicine (Opinion, 7 June) against the close-minded critics in the medical profession.

Complementary medicine is not the same as alternative medicine and should be viewed differently. After all, the common goal is to improve patient welfare by whatever means possible. Science has not and never will give us all the answers to life's mysteries and the working dynamics of the human body, and we should accept that proof of how something works is less important than recognising that it does. This is simply about being a good, open-minded practitioner.

If a patient tells us that a certain, scientifically unproven therapy has helped them, who are we to tell them that they are wrong, or deluded into feeling better?'First do no harm' seems to be a forgotten sentiment in today's medical practice. I feel ashamed by the amount of iatrogenic mortality, morbidity and polypharmacy associated with my profession. The evidence-based race has ignored the individual and has created a 'quantity not quality' culture of healthcare.

Complementary therapies are generally inexpensive, free from side-effects and overall are safe if carried out by trained professionals. So why are they such a target for attack in a climate of overspends and cost consciousness? Most medical homeopaths, acupuncturists and so on who offer treatment to NHS patients for free are skilled holistic GPs who have funded their own training to reach a high level of proficiency. They should be recognised and supported as valued doctors with a special skill – not subjected to insulting, unprofessional attacks from their mainstream colleagues.

Last week I saw an 80% improvement in a 10-year-old's chronic eczema with homeopathic treatment. The dermatologist had failed to help this child over six years with the best that modern medicine could offer. This is not placebo, it is not magic, it is just one of many thousands of examples of successful complementary therapy. Many patients now prefer complementary care. Its popularity is rising, and people are now questioning the wisdom of some conventional therapies.

It is time for us to be more open with our patients, learn from their experiences and support them and their practitioners in the common quest for a healthy life.

Dr Andrew Hillam, Fair Oak, Hampshire

Time for GPs to be more open with patients about herbal remedies, says Dr Hillam Time for GPs to be more open with patients about herbal remedies, says Dr Hillam

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