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Should complementary medicine be provided on the NHS?

A group of hospital doctors and researchers sparked a furious debate over use of complementary therapies last week, claiming they were a waste of money and shouldn't be provided by the NHS. We asked a panel of GPs where they stood.

'It's patronising for surgeons and scientists to tell us what to do in primary care when they don't know anything about it. About 20 per cent of GPs offer these therapies in-house. '

Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance and a GP in Cullompton, Devon

'My experience is that they have only a placebo effect. People tend to get better just through the passage of time ­ it doesn't necessarily relate to the medication they are taking.'

Dr Peter Calveley, medical director at Four Seasons PCT and a GP in Lincoln

'Just because these therapies have not been subject to formal research does not mean they don't work. I see reductions in absenteeism and pain when patients use them. If that happens, I'm happy.'

Dr Ethie Kong, who gives patients acupuncture at her surgery in Willesden, London

'If a lot was being spent on therapies that had no evidence base I would be concerned, but I don't think there's an inordinate amount of evidence that these therapies are being purchased in the NHS.'

Dr George Rae, a member of the GPC prescribing sub-committee and a GP in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear

'resources for research into complementary therapies are not always available. We need money and time for that. Several studies have shown the effectiveness of homoeopathy.'

Dr Michael Cannell, member of the Faculty of Homoeopathy and a GP in St Albans, Hertfordshire

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