Should ‘alternative medicine’ be taught in universities?

The use of complementary therapies on the NHS will be explored in a More 4 documentary, which will reveal that £12m has been spent on homeopathy over the last three years.

Why does it matter? Homeopathy – where patients are treated with a diluted dose of the substance that caused their original symptoms – has been widely discredited as little more than “sugar pills” by scientists.

After a six-year campaign by Professor David Colquhoun at University College London, the last BSc in homeopathy was suspended by Westminster University in March after it failed to recruit enough students. Five homeopathy degrees have been scrapped since 2007.

But there are still plenty of complementary and alternative medicine (Cam) courses available in universities, and the NHS continues to offer a variety of therapies, including homeopathy, despite a lack of research evidence to show their effectiveness.

The Liberal Democrat science spokesman, Dr Evan Harris, says the NHS is wrong to spend money on unproven treatments and effectively to give them a “stamp of approval” by doing so.

But Dr Peter Fisher, of the Royal London Homeopathic hospital, argues that there is strong evidence that patients benefit in the long term.

What do you think? Should universities be allowed to run such courses, or the NHS to provide patients with these alternative therapies?


One response to “Should ‘alternative medicine’ be taught in universities?

  • Eugene

    I am a chiropractor. Surely it depends what they teach. From personal experience, we were taught anatomy, physiology, radiology, radiography, biomechanics, neurology, general diagnosis, did hospital rounds at Bournemouth Hospital in Orthopaedics and Geriatrics. The college does the NHS ultrasound screening for A.A.A. and provides an accredited sonography qualification. We were also taught the history of chiropractic and its context in modern medicine (1 hour a week, for 1 year of 5 which usually resulted in a debate chiropratic theory is outdated nonsense and, no its not between the students).

    This year in my clinic have diagnosed 2 burst fractures both missed by GP’s and hospital, last year a DENS fracture, and unilateral facet dislocation reported as normal at the hospital, and given 3 months physio, ABC on C2 few years previous, a kidney tumour, Mets to the Knee. These are serious medical conditions requiring surgical intervention being diagnosed by chiropractors. We are not simply seeing people needing a back rub. Complementary medicine will by definition always have less evidence for its efficacy, otherwise any common sense healthcare system should adopt it into the mainstream. Fish oils / Glucosamine were a fad and old wives tales now they are mainstream.

    Courses should absolutely be taught in Universities and ratified by external bodies so a minimum diagnostic standard is maintained simply from a patient safety perspective. From my perspective GP’s training in musculosketetal care is limited as are their diagnostic skills. The scope they cover in their training is massive and frankly more serious complaints take higher priority.

    As for the NHS paying for “such treatments”. I would argue, is it the NHS’s place to provide free care for minor musculoskeletal complaints at all, the evidence for most of physiotherapy is not good, when the money can be directed towards lifesaving treatment. But fairs fair is manipulation for low back pain provided by a physio evidence based but by a chiropractor not, or even being impaled by needles by an acupuncturist nonsense but ok when done in a pain clinic.

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