Complementary therapies - Greens ahead of the game on health (again)31 May 2009
It was interesting to see last week the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence - commonly known as NICE - recommending patients with persistent back pain be offered complementary therapies on the NHS.
Going against the grain, the watchdog took a brave decision in endorsing acupuncture, massages and other exercises for treating this common condition.
When you consider that some £1.5 million is spent each year on treating back pain, and that this initiative could actually save money - by reducing reliance on other techniques - I believe it makes complete sense.
Whilst the best treatment programmes probably dip into both conventional and alternative medicine (reliance on alternative alone would probably be unwise) the Green Party has been way ahead of the game for years in advocating this greater integration of complementary and alternative medicines into NHS services.
Here in Brighton we are lucky to be served by an excellent network of complementary and alternative medicine practicioners.
The Green Party would fully integrate their services and expertise into NHS treatment plans, not only improving patient choices but helping to boost this important sector of the local economy.
Complementary and alternative medicine may be written off by drug companies and other sceptics as "mumbo jumbo" medicine, but recent evidence strongly contradicts such claims.
A little reported year-long pilot scheme in Northern Ireland recently found complementary and alternative medicine offers significant health improvements to NHS patients.
After receiving a range of such treatments on referral from their GP, 81% of patients reported an improvement in physical health and 79% in mental health.
The majority, 84%, directly linked improvements in their health and wellbeing to the alternative treatments they had received. 94% said they would recommend it to others with a similar condition.
Therapies offered included acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, reflexology and aromatherapy administered by local practitioners.
The scheme was the brainchild of the excellent social enterprise Get Well UK ( http://www.getwelluk.com ) which campaigns to improve access to complementary therapy on the public health service.
The study backs up our own findings: people we talk to time and again say they want to be offered complimentary medicines, either on their own or in combination with other treatments. They want the choice.
But choice is not something easily associated with Labour's current record on health.
They're selling hospitals and health care services to private companies which actually costs tax payers more money, and reduces the ability of clinical staff to provide good health care.
The supposed promotion of choice offered by this ill-lanned sell off does little to ensure that efficient - and effective - health care is provided locally and actually limits the options available to many people.
The reversal of this healthcare privatisation is a key priority for the Green Party - and a major focus of our current manifesto pledge ( http://www.greenparty.org.uk/
We want to give people their choice back.