GPs should be able to prescribe massages and other forms of complementary therapies, a group of MPs has said.
The report recommended that the Government works with NHS England to promote the benefits of social prescribing with GPs, nurses and other health and care professionals, and how they can refer people to non-clinical complementary therapy services.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Beauty and Wellbeing has carried out research into the complementary therapies sector, to consider how it can ‘support everyone’s physical health, mental health and wellbeing’ and ‘take pressure off the NHS’ saving both money and resources.
It said: ‘Currently, around 20% of patients consult GPs for problems that are primarily social rather than medical, which could be addressed by the collaboration of the NHS with the wellbeing and holistic therapies sector.
‘With the NHS under increasing pressure, it is vital that the benefits of complementary therapies are acknowledged by Government.
‘Treatments such as massage can play a vital role in helping those with long-term health conditions manage their symptoms.
‘Research tells us that, in the UK, around 9 out of 10 people have tried a complementary therapy and 90% of this happens outside the NHS.
‘Using social prescribing to offer complementary therapies through the NHS has an important part to play in helping people live better for longer and compressing the period of morbidity and dependency at the end of life.’
The group said that the perception of the sector needs to move from ‘frivolous and fluffy’ and ‘non-essential’ to recognising that the therapies are ‘crucial’, as they can provide ‘life changing support’ for those with conditions such as hormonal imbalance, puberty, fertility issues, pregnancy, menopause, anxiety, and stress.
However, the MPs admitted that there currently is not enough staff to deliver complementary therapies on the NHS.
She said: ‘Many alternative or complementary therapies do not have a robust clinical evidence base, and as such we would not support use of them when treating patients on the NHS.
‘There is some evidence of the benefits of acupuncture for treating some types of pain.
‘However, it is likely that most health benefits patients report from use of many alternative therapies is likely to be that of a placebo.
‘We recognise the right of patients to choose alternative or complementary therapies, but without a clinical evidence base, the RCGP does not believe that these should be available on the NHS.’