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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Quality symbol scheme for practices offering alternative therapies

By Nigel Praities

An organisation backed by Prince Charles is planning to issue a quality symbol to practices as part of a scheme to recognise the provision of complementary therapies in general practice.

Under the proposals, accredited practices would display a symbol on NHS Choices and their own marketing materials to show they offer ‘integrated health' to their patients.

The scheme, devised by the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, will initially simply encourage GPs to sign up to a pledge to provide complementary therapies at their surgeries.

Further levels of membership and a quality symbol are then planned to follow, as part of a major push to move complementary therapies into the mainstream.

Practices will be invited to become members of the Prince's Foundation if they meet certain criteria. These include provision of complementary therapies in-house, having a partner with a specialist interest in integrated care and conducting quality and safety audits of the of the complementary therapies they provide.

Silver and gold levels of membership, with more stringent levels of criteria, would then follow, and eventually a fully fledged kite-marking scheme to accredit the quality of provision.

Dr Michael Dixon, medical director of the Prince's Foundation, was set to launch the scheme this week at the Integrated Health Conference in London.

He told Pulse: ‘This is part of patient power, emancipation and choice. In an increasingly competitive market, it may be something patients want to see and it will therefore be something practices want to achieve.'

Nearly 120 practices are already members of the foundation and Dr Dixon said he hopes all of these, and many more, will sign up to the new scheme.

Dr Tim Robinson, a GP who provides acupuncture and homeopathy in his practice in Beaminster, Dorset, said he would aim to join up.

‘It is good for the profile of the practice, patient reassurance and demonstrates we have a holistic approach,' he said.

But not all GPs were enthusiastic. Dr Graham Archard, a GP in Christchurch, Dorset, and RCGP advisor on complementary medicines for NHS Evidence, said the scheme was redundant since complementary therapies were both widely available and often ineffective.

‘This is not something I sign up to. A lot of complementary therapies are not very effective and a lot of the useful ones are no longer complementary, they are mainstream – such as chiropractic.'

‘You don't need to sign up to this because they are available for everybody. GPs will refer patients onto the NHS or privately for therapies that have been shown to be effective and have adequate regulation.'

What will practices have to do?

1. Agree to provide integrated care
2. Provide at least one complementary therapy in-house
3. Have at least one partner in the practice with a specialist interest in integrating conventional and complementary medicine
4. Ensure all partners are happy to discuss complementary therapies with patients
5. In order to retain their membership after three years, members will have to conduct significant event audits, clinical care audits and seek patient views on the integrated services offered by their practice

Source: Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health

Dr Tim Robinson: scheme will raise practice profile as holistic care provider Dr Tim Robinson: scheme will raise practice profile as holistic care provider

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