Can I get acupuncture on the NHS?

Acupuncture’s use in the UK has grown remarkably, and as the profile of this particular form of treatment increases, more and more people are looking for acupuncture to complement their medical care. Unsurprisingly, the first question many people looking into acupuncture for the first time ask is whether or not they will have access to this form of therapy on the NHS.

Is acupuncture available on the NHS?

Generally speaking acupuncture is not available on the NHS, and patients looking to pursue this type of treatment will have to look to private providers for their care. The exception to this is acupuncture provided for the treatment of lower back pain.

The treatment was included as part of the NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) recommendations on managing chronic (persistent) lower back pain. This revision was made in 2009 following research into the effectiveness of the technique in dealing with this particular issue. Since then the decision to include acupuncture as an NHS funded treatment for lower back pain has been the subject of a great deal of derision from a number of different sources.

Some NHS professionals gain qualifications in acupuncture, and while their services are not always provided through the NHS, this is providing a gateway for further acupuncture in the NHS. It is possible that in the future acupuncture may become more commonplace within the National Health Service.

Why is acupuncture not available on the NHS?

At present acupuncture is not usually available on the NHS because the authorities responsible for including different treatments as part of routine care do not find that there is enough evidence to support the therapy as viable and effective. However poor quality research and obstacles involved in the scientific study of acupuncture have been the major factors in getting good quality data on acupuncture’s effectiveness. As these issues are being addressed and our understanding of acupuncture improves, there could be more acupuncture treatments available on the NHS.

Some quarters have argued for the inclusion of acupuncture as a therapy for the NHS because to do so would bring the practice under more stringent regulation which would be better for patient safety. Moreover including acupuncture in the NHS would encourage the development of best practice pathways and other important aspects of modern care.

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