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A new report released by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare (PGIH) warns that “The future of healthcare lies in our health system recognising that physical, emotional and mental health are intrinsically linked, and that only by treating a patient as a whole person can we tackle the root cause of illness and deal with the problem of patients presenting with multiple and complex conditions.”
The report, titled ‘Integrated healthcare: putting the pieces together’, is based on the findings of an extensive consultation carried out by the PGIH in 2017, to which the IFA provided a detailed response on behalf of its registrants. It urges the government to embrace complementary, traditional and natural medicine to ease the mounting burden being placed on the NHS. It looks at the key health issues affecting the country and discusses how these should be addressed, and “proposes solutions which would help to improve patient care and bring more equitable access to complementary, traditional and natural therapies for the general public where appropriate, both within the NHS and outside.”
Modern medicine has proved to have been very effective in tackling many of the health conditions we face today. However, there are areas, ‘effectiveness gaps’ (EGs), where available treatments in modern clinical practice are not fully effective, e.g. with depression, eczema, allergies, chronic pain, and irritable bowel syndrome for example, being frequently cited. The report urges that for these types of conditions, a different approach is needed, which does not involve giving more costly but also potentially ineffective drugs.
A significant part of the strategy to tackle this, is to treat each patient as a whole person, with individual needs, rather than treating any presenting illnesses separately. The report stresses that the rising costs to the health system require a more person-centred approach to health delivery, which focuses on prevention and tackles the root cause of illness. The report recommends making greater use of natural, traditional and complementary therapies, which are widely used to support people affected by a variety of conditions. It also highlights the huge under-utilised resource of professional therapists, who could work in collaboration with conventional medicine to improve patient outcomes and ease the burden on the NHS.
It highlights that many more patients now suffer from multi-morbidity from when the NHS was formed 70 years ago, “with the number of people in England with one or more long-term conditions projected to increase to around 18 million by 2025”. Furthermore, it is estimated that 70% of total health expenditure on health and care in England is associated with treating 30% of the population with one or more long-term conditions. The result of these complex health conditions is the growing problem of polypharmacy, where several drugs are used at the same time. The report stresses that this is perhaps the biggest threat to the future economic viability of the NHS, with increasing costs of pharmaceutical drugs needed to treat patients with multiple illnesses, coupled with largely unknown effects of the long-term use of these drugs in combination. “Polypharmacy works only to increase drugs dependency and cost to the taxpayer rather than tackling the underlying root causes of illness. The result is that increasing numbers of patients remain well enough to function, but without ever being well.”
The PGIH report argues that the government needs to devise a strategy to fully assess the degree of drug interactions, determine the long-term health effects on patients, and arrest the trend of over medicating the population. David Tredinnick MP, Chair of the PGIH, insisted that the current approach being taken by the government is unsustainable for the long-term future of the country and states: ‘Despite positive signs that ministers are proving open to change, words must translate into reality. For some time our treasured NHS has faced threats to its financial sustainability and to common trust in the system.” Other European governments facing similar challenges have considered the benefits of exploring complementary, traditional and natural medicines. If we are to hand on our most invaluable institution to future generations, so should we. This comes as music to our ears as the IFA has been advocating this approach since the 80’s when our early registrants volunteered their services in the NHS with the ‘IFA NHS aromatherapy-in-care programme’ with stationed offices in the Royal Masonic Hospital in the 90’s.
Aromatherapy aims to enhance well-being, relieve stress and help in the rejuvenation and regeneration of the human body. When there is no conventional treatment available to relieve symptoms or alleviate an illness, complementary care is often the only form of support people have. Essential oils have the potential to tap into the emotions, to heal and soothe the body, and promote spiritual connection. Aromatherapy can help create an atmosphere where the recipient can feel cared for, physically relaxed, less anxious, calm and restful and it also has the potential for a vital role in care and recovery programmes. Reliable research shows aromatherapy may help many physical, mental and emotional symptoms and conditions, and could thus significantly reduce public spending on pharmaceutical interventions and related health costs. We look forward to keeping you updated to the government’s response to the report.