Headlines: November 4th, 2004

More than seven out of ten patients would like to talk to their family doctors or pharmacists about complementary medicine but are reluctant to do so as many of them feel most GPs disapprove of it, according to figures released today.They have been published as part of a campaign by Developing Patient Partnerships and show that only 52 per cent of GPs routinely ask patients about their complementary medicine use. Nearly half of family doctors do not believe they should be providing information and advice to patients on the subject but 70 per cent of them say they have recommended complementary medicine to patients.

The ‘Talking about complementary medicine’ campaign is launched today by DPP as part of Ask About Medicines Week, to provide more information about complementary medicine and to encourage communication between health professionals and patients about its use.

Today’s figures show 40 per cent of people are unaware of the dangers of mixing natural remedies with other medicines and two thirds are unclear about which complementary medicines are safe. This is echoed in the views of doctors with 85 per cent of GPs welcoming more guidance because they believe they have too little knowledge and information on the safety and efficacy of complementary medicines.

DPP spokesman, Dr Terry John said both patients and health professionals were crying out for more information and it was crucial that professionals had information to hand when necessary. Supporters of the campaign include Dr Michael Dixon, Chairman of NHS Alliance, who said patients should not be forced into an either or situation and orthodox medicine had to accept that an increasing number of patients were choosing to use complementary therapies, which meant doctors needed to learn more about them and to discuss the benefits and disadvantages with patients.

The figures in the campaign come from an NOP World survey of 982 adults in the first three days of October. In addition, NOP World Health’s ‘GP Net’ Service conducted an online survey of 100 NHS GPs during the month. Other findings show nearly a quarter of people would be reluctant to tell their doctor about any complementary medicine they were using. Almost a third said they would stop taking prescription medicine or over-the-counter medicine if they were going to use complementary medicine.