NHS patients to be given alternative medicine self-referral option?
Posted Oct 21 2008 2:47am
Patients frustrated by the process of visiting a GP before getting treatment for aches and pains, speech problems and nutrition advice will soon have the right to self-refer, but waiting times may increase because of it.
In a radical move by ministers, patients will be allowed to refer themselves for alternative medicine and complementary therapy techniques such as physiotherapy, nutrition and podiatry.
The announcement from the Health Secretary Alan Johnson should remove the process of visiting your local doctor before seeking out other treatments. However, therapists are warning that this will increase demand for alternative treatments which will put pressure on the NHS system and cause long waiting times.
Currently, GPs are seen as the gatekeepers for hospital services and seen as an effective way to curb spending on over-treatment. As public awareness of health grows, this process is causing frustration among people who demand to choose the type of treatment they receive.
The Government argues that self-referral will lead to quicker treatment and less follow-up appointments. The move will green light physios, podiatrists, speech therapists and dieticians to accept patient self-referral.
Some primary care trusts have been piloting self-referral schemes. Portsmouth PCT have allowed self-referral for the elderly and vulnerable to use podiatry while City and Hackney PCT used speech therapy walk-in session for children under five with speech problems.
This shift from the Government toward self-referral for alternative treatments that have entered conventional healthcare (such as physiotherapy and podiatry) could pave the way for other methods to be included. In an ever changing world where people are becoming aware of alternative medicine and complementary therapy healthcare, therapies that are seeking validation could become more widely available.
The question remains though - can the NHS cope? Private sessions with a trained practitioner are still the best option when seeking alternative health treatment.