GPs’ knowledge about acupuncture

| February 8, 2010 | 0 Comments | 217 views

Interestingly, despite the relatively high numbers of GPs arranging for their patients to visit acupuncturists, GPs tend to rate their knowledge about the therapy as relatively poor-for example, 78% of GPs in Avon, England rated their knowledge as poor or very poor ( Wharton and Lewith, 1986). Perkin et al. (1994) found that although 95% of GPs knew the principles of acupuncture, only 24% knew the qualifications of the practitioners. As the authors point out, this is significant since doctors have an obligation to know the potential benefits and harm of making such referrals and fundamental to this is an awareness of what constitutes a properly trained practitioner. In addition to this, the NHS Confederation (1997) found that whilst patients do not necessarily see the NHS as their provider of CAM treatment, they do see NHS health professionals as an information source for CAM. With low levels of knowledge, GPs may be unable to fulfil this patient expectation.

The majority of the doctors still regarded acupuncture as a useful therapy despite their limited knowledge, and a small number had received some training in it. These numbers varied between studies, ranging from 3% in the UK (Wharton and Lewith, 1986), to 12% in New Zealand (Hadley, 1988), to 20% in Canada (Verhoef and Sutherland, 1995). Greater numbers expressed the desire to receive some form of training in acupuncture (ranging from 6% to 50%), or in another CAM therapy.

These studies are open to criticism since many have been based on small samples which may not be representative of the GP population as a whole. Those that were conducted outside the UK cannot necessarily be applied to the UK situation, and UK studies were generally not nationwide. They have tended to concentrate on complementary and alternative medicine as a whole and have not focused on any specific therapy. The BMA Board of Science and Education carried out a postal questionnaire survey of GPs to address the 1998 BMA ARM resolution, and to establish to what extent acupuncture is being used within primary care services in the UK at the present time.

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