Western acupuncture in a NHS general practice: anonymized 3-year patient feedback survey

Timothy W Robinson
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on Paradigm, Practice, and Policy 2012, 18 (6): 555-60

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to observe the response to Western acupuncture performed in a National Health Service (NHS) general practice. Outcomes, patient experience, impact on conventional therapies, and appropriateness of acupuncture in general practice were assessed.

DESIGN: An explanatory letter and questionnaire were sent to every patient in a 3-partner rural general practice regarding the acupuncture treatment they had received from the author over a period of 3 years. Completed questionnaires were returned anonymously to the Practice Manager to be collated.

RESULTS: There were 194 surveys were posted; 71% were completed and returned to the Practice Manager. Demographics of patients treated with acupuncture demonstrate that it was administered to patients of all age groups, with the majority on the 40-80-year age span, and female-to-male ratio of 64%:36%, respectively. Following the course of acupuncture, 75% of patients surveyed noted an improvement in their presenting condition; 24% noted no change. Those who benefited from the treatment reported the improvement as complete (26%) or major (38%). Seventy-two percent (72%) of patients judged their "quality of life" to be improved. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of patients stated a reduction or cessation of painkillers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) thought that referral to hospital specialist or physiotherapist was avoided as a result of the acupuncture treatment. Twenty-three percent (23%) of patients found acupuncture to be painful; of those, 60% said the pain was only mild. Seventy-two percent (72%) of patients were treated within 1 week of being seen by the general practitioner (GP); the majority (81%) of patients had between one and three treatments. Patient opinion on interval time between GP consultation and treatment, as well as appropriateness of acupuncture in the general practice setting, was extremely favorable.

CONCLUSIONS: This survey demonstrates the application of Western acupuncture within a NHS general practice administered by an individual GP. The patients' response scores from an anonymized questionnaire showed beneficial outcomes from acupuncture; patients also perceived that the treatment negated secondary care referral and reduction or cessation of pain-relieving medication.

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