The NHS has been urged to embrace complementary, traditional and natural medicine in a new report from MPs.
The new report, released by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare (PGIH), has warned that the explosion in chronic disease needs a different approach, given that the growing numbers of people suffering from long-term illnesses poses significant threats to the future sustainability of the NHS.
The report says that the costs to the health system of a number of medical conditions are increasing rapidly; it is estimated that the NHS spent £6.1bn on overweight and obesity- related ill-health in 2014 to 2015, with the overall cost of obesity to wider society estimated at £2bn.
In addition, a staggering 70 per cent of total health expenditure on health and care in England is associated with treating the 30 per cent of the population with one long-term condition or more. The result of these complex health conditions is the growing problem of polypharmacy (the use of several drugs at the same time).
And so, the PGIH report argues that 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. A significant part of this strategy is to treat patients as whole persons, with individual needs, rather than with a variety of illnesses that are treated separately.
It adds that this strategy should make greater use of natural, traditional and complementary medicines, which are widely used for a variety of conditions and often work in harmony with conventional medicine.
The PGIH advocates that the UK can learn from other countries that face similar threats to public health; countries such as India and China integrate traditional medicines into their respective systems, working alongside conventional Western medicine. In France, Germany and Switzerland, there is promising integration of mainstream with complementary, traditional and natural medicine.
David Tredinnick MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, which produced the report, insisted that the current approach being taken by the Government is unsustainable for the long-term future of the country.
“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,” he commented.
“Multimorbidity is more apparent now in the UK than at any time in our recent history. As a trend, it threatens to swamp a struggling NHS, but the good news is that many self-limiting conditions can be treated at home with the most minimal of expert intervention.
“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.”