NHS Finances and Complementary Therapies.

This week has seen more news regarding the shortfall in NHS finances, and the introduction of consultation to discuss the future of a number of hospitals, their roles, and their functions.

Now, I need to declare an interest or two here. First, I am and will remain a devout believer in and user of the NHS. Secondly, I spent 13 years working in the NHS, in senior roles, although ninon clinical.

The experience many of us have of the NHS is positive, yes we all would like to be a bit quicker, we always are left wondering why so many people seem to be walking around, back and forth, without dealing with the patients. This is true in the hospital environment. In the GP environment (what is called primary care) the unproductive strolling around is still evident although perhaps to a lesser extent. However, the hospitals in particular are there when we need then most, and the staff do an amazing job of fixing us.

Yet, they do this all against a backdrop of financial pressures, with management demanding more and more efficiencies for less and less investment. Consultations are held with staff and the patients alike, but how much of the original plan is ever changed as a result of the views of patients or staff? In my time in the NHS and the ones I saw, no changes were ever made, there were exercises in ticking the box to say consultation had taken place. Yes they cost a fortune, and have such little benefit. Even more damning is the fact the proposals for these consultations are inevitably outsourced to management consultants who charge a small fortune. Yet, if their plans were so good, why would consultation be needed? Should they not be that good given the cost of them?

But, I have digressed from the original point which is complementary therapies. Looking at the Payment by Results tariff for 2016/17 lower back pain costs £505 for admitted patient care or outpatient procedures and, pain management at Outpatients is £165. Those are for single visits and for outpatients that could be 10 minutes after having been waiting for months for the appointment. This does not even consider the costs of the primary care, or the delays to the patient. The cost of a single complementary therapy session, such as Bowen Fascial Release Technique is a fraction of this cost, a fraction of the outpatient cost. In reality, the cost of an outpatient appointment would cover a course of Bowen Fascial Release Technique treatments, by which stage the patient/client would know whether the therapy was making a difference and any therapist worth their salt would know this too.

Yet, complementary therapies are the forgotten child of the NHS. Perhaps it would be better to refer to them as the illegitimate child of medicine, the ones that everyone knows to exist, but nobody likes to talk about. Purely because complementary therapies do not fall into an easily understandable or measurable context, except for the reaction of the client/patient. But, surely if a client could not stand up straight, and after a complementary therapy treatment they can, does that not indicate the success of the treatment and therefor ether therapy for that person on that occasion? After if you go to a GP with an infection, they prescribe antibiotics and the infection goes away does the health system not see that as a success?

But imagine the savings that are possible by complementary therapies, not only in financial terms but also the pressure on the staff to reduce waiting times.

Of course, there are other reasons for the financial issues that the NHS faces and I may write about those soon.