Evidence for complementary therapies on the NHS should be considered by independent body, says The King's Fund

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Responding to the Christopher Smallwood and research consultancy FreshMinds' report The Role of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the NHS, which called for a full assessment of mainstream complementary therapies, The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson, said:

'This important report highlights the potential contribution that mainstream complementary therapies could make to improving health and reducing the costs of health care. Where the evidence is strong enough, The King's Fund supports the call for the a review of complementary medicines by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

'Given that almost half of the UK's general practices provide some form of access to complementary practice, this report is a timely and useful contribution to the debate over the role of complementary practice in the NHS. The report makes a strong case for scrutiny of the existing evidence particularly in relation to the use of acupuncture for post-operative pain and chemotherapy-related nausea, manipulation therapies for acute lower back pain, and herbal medicines for the treatment of depression and as an alternative to conventional anti-inflammatory drugs.

'Case studies in the report demonstrate how complementary practice is already being integrated into NHS primary care services in some areas and is rated highly by patients. The authors are therefore right to suggest that NICE should consider how people are equally able to access services both geographically and in relation to individual therapies.'

Niall Dickson added: 'The report also highlights the need to tackle those areas where the evidence of effectiveness for both conventional medicine and complementary practice is weak. It makes a sensible argument for greater targeted investment for research in these areas and demonstrates the need to generate evidence which would enable meaningful comparisons across complementary practice and existing conventional medicine.'

Notes to editors


  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.