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What GPs Should Know About Complementary And Alternative Medicine

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What is complementary and alternative medicine ?

CAM is the use of non-medical methods in the healthcare process. These include the use of supplements, mind-body techniques, energy techniques and manipulation techniques.

Why should GPs know more about CAM  ?

The UK is already behind Europe and America in its understanding and application of CAM . Research has accelerated in recent years as acupuncture, hydrotherapy and osteopathy have been added to the European curriculum. The size of CAM as a healthcare market has grown and more patients are looking to CAM to help with issues that conventional medicine has little or no effect on. As healthcare professionals, a GP should be able to provide good, unbiased advice on the efficacy and safety of different CAM techniques. They might not need to refer a patient to a CAM practitioner but they should have enough of a grounding in the basics to point them in the right direction.

Can CAM techniques really help?

Yes. There is evidence that certain Complementary and alternative medicine techniques are useful in the treatment of chronic pain. In many cases, GPs find that patients do not respond well to conventional pain relief medication. In these instances, patients look to CAM to relieve pain symptoms. Getting advice from a GP on Complementary and alternative medicine can significantly lower risk levels for patients and give them peace of mind.

Are CAM practitioners regulated?

Most CAM practitioners are not regulated in the same way that a GP is. Only osteopaths and chiropractors are regulated by statute, which means they have a council, similar to the General Medical Council (GMC), which they report to. Other CAMpractitioners have less stringent oversight and GPs should be aware of the lack of clarity in this matter when it comes to recommending treatment or practitioners.


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