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October 2021

Fam Pract. 1997 Aug; 14(4): 302-6.

Complementary medicine: use and attitudes among GPs.

White AR, Resch KL, Ernst E.

Department of Complementary Medicine, Postgraduate Medical School, University of Exeter, UK.

BACKGROUND: Information about use and attitudes of GPs towards complementary medicine is required in order to inform the debate about its place within mainstream medicine. There is evidence that public use of complementary medicine is particularly high in the South-West of England. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to determine the use of, and attitudes towards, complementary medicine among GPs. METHODS: A questionnaire survey was performed of all primary care physicians working in the health service in Devon and Cornwall. RESULTS: Replies were received from 461 GPs, a response rate of 47%. A total of 314 GPs (68%, range 32-85%) had been involved in complementary medicine in some way during the previous week. One or other form of complementary medicine was practised by 74 of the respondents (16%), the two most common being homoeopathy (5.9%) and acupuncture (4.3%). In addition, 115 of the respondents (25%) had referred at least one patient to a complementary therapist in the previous week, and 253 (55%) had endorsed or recommended treatment with complementary medicine. Chiropractic, acupuncture and osteopathy were rated as the three most effective therapies, and the majority of respondents believed that these three therapies should be funded by the health service. A total of 176 (38%) of respondents reported adverse effects, most commonly after manipulation. CONCLUSION: Over two-thirds of the GPs in Devon and Cornwall who responded to the survey had been involved with complementary medicine in some way during the previous week. This figure is higher than the national average. The majority of respondents believed that acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathy were effective and should be funded by the NHS.

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