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more information needed about complementary medicine

Research from DPP: Developing Patient Partnerships* reveals that 71% of people would like to discuss complementary medicine with their GP or pharmacist but many may be reluctant to bring it up as 38% agree they feel that most GPs disapprove of it.

Only 52% of GPs routinely ask patients about their complementary medicine use. Nearly half (47%) of GPs do not believe that they should be the ones providing information and advice to patients, despite the fact that 70% say they have recommended complementary medicine to their patients.

40% of people are unaware of the dangers of mixing natural remedies with other medicines and 66% of people are unclear about which complementary medicines are safe. This is echoed with 85% of GPs feeling they don't have enough knowledge and information on the safety and efficacy of complementary medicines and welcoming more guidance. The need for more reliable information about complementary medicine for both health professionals and patients is clear.

DPP Spokesman, Dr Terry John said "Patients and health professionals are crying out for more information on complementary medicine. It is crucial that health professionals have information to hand when necessary, and likewise patients need the necessary information to make informed choices about their treatment.

More and more people are using complementary medicine and DPP's research found that 63% agree they should be able to see it available on the NHS. With increasing demand and availability of complementary medicine it is crucial that health professionals and patients start to talk about complementary medicine as part of a routine consultation.

Commenting on DPP's findings, Dr Michael Dixon, Chairman of NHS Alliance, said "Patients should not be forced into an either/or situation. Orthodox medicine must accept that an increasing number of patients choose to use complementary therapies. That means doctors need to learn more about them, and discuss the benefits and disadvantages with their patients."

* NOP World surveyed 982 adults, aged 15+, between 1-3 October 2004, using a nationally representative telephone omnibus survey. Data was weighted to bring it in line with national profiles. NOP World Health’s ‘GP Net’ Service conducted an online survey of 100 NHS GPs during October 2004.

Click for the full set of data, broken down by region