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Bitter pill for traditional Chinese medicine

Updated: 2013-11-25 01:48
By Zhang Chunyan in London ( China Daily)

Nick Pahl, chief executive officer of the British Acupuncture Council, the leading self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture in the UK, says it has been estimated that the demand for acupuncture treatment has almost doubled in the past decade to more than 4.5 million treatments every year. "This indicates that acupuncture is one of the most popular forms of treatment in the UK.

"British patients believe that acupuncture is effective and has no side-effects," Pahl says, adding that acupuncture also falls under the British National Health Service.

"The increasing research evidence base for acupuncture and the recommendations from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, especially for lower back pain, headache and migraine have also spurred demand," Pahl says.

"There have been several studies that have proved the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment of chronic ailments such as depressions and osteoarthritis."

Dominique Joire, the service manager and senior practitioner at the Gateway Clinic in London, says his clinic accepts TCM referrals from general practitioners and provides acupuncture for more than 300 patients a week, mainly for long-term conditions.

Body acupuncture at Gateway Clinic is used to treat problems such as musculo-skeletal pain, headaches, migraine and cancer symptoms.

Gateway Clinic is 100 percent funded by the NHS, Dominique says. Usually the GPs send the patients to a physiotherapist and only when the physiotherapist cannot solve the problem will they be sent for acupuncture. "On average the waiting period for acupuncture treatment is about three months," Joire says.

Currently in the UK, there are various forms of acupuncture service. Some are carried out within the NHS, such as Gateway Clinic, which means the patients are referred by their GPs and do not have to pay, says Elizabeth Wilmot, who qualified as an acupuncturist about five years ago, after working as a consultant psychiatrist for 20 years with the NHS.

The downside of this option is that the line is long and the service is limited, Wilmot says, adding that it prompts several patients to go to private clinics with a charge, such as the Nottingham University Hospitals Self-Pay Pain Clinic.

Almendra Mcbride, a British patient who started taking acupuncture and Chinese medicines on the advice of a friend about 30 years ago, says both are effective, although the capsules take longer to produce the desired results.

Apart from acupuncture, massage and cupping are also becoming more popular, Pahl says.

Acupuncture research and studies are other areas that are gaining ground in Europe. There is already huge demand for courses that are certified by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board. There are also universities and colleges that offer degree level courses in London and four other towns.

After students complete a BAAB accredited course they can opt to join the British Acupuncture Council, which has more than 550 students on its rolls.

Pahl expects the number of students to increase with the recent launch of two new teaching institutions, at City College in London and the Acupuncture Academy in Leamington.

Wang Mengzhen and Wang Mingjie contributed to the story.

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