Browse/search for people

Publication - Professor Debbie Sharp

    Complementary medicine use, views and experiences – a national survey in England


    Sharp, DJ, Lorenc, A, Morris, R, Feder, G, Little, P, Hollinghurst, S, Stewart, M & MacPherson, H, 2018, ‘Complementary medicine use, views and experiences – a national survey in England’. British Journal of General Practice Open.


    Background In 2005 12% of the English population visited a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioner.
    Aim To obtain up-to-date general population figures for practitioner-led CAM use in England, and views/experiences regarding access.

    Design & settingF ace-to-face questionnaire survey. Nationally representative adult quota sample (≥15yrs).
    Method Ten questions within Ipsos MORI’s weekly population-based survey, about 12 month practitioner-led CAM use, reasons for non-use, views on NHS (National Health Service)-provided CAM, and willingness to pay.
    Results Of 4,862 adults surveyed, 766 (16%) had seen a CAM practitioner, most commonly manual therapies (massage, osteopathy, chiropractic) and acupuncture, also yoga, Pilates, reflexology, mindfulness/meditation. Women, people with higher socioeconomic status (SES) and those in south England were more likely to access CAM. Musculoskeletal conditions (mainly back pain) accounted for 68% of use, and mental health 12%. Most was through self-referral (70%) and self financing. GPs/NHS professionals referred/recommended CAM for 17%/4% of users, who were more often unemployed, with lower income and social grade, and receiving NHS-funded CAM. Respondents were willing to pay varying amounts for CAM; 22% would not pay anything. Almost 2 in 5 respondents felt NHS funding and GP referral/endorsement would increase their CAM use.

    Conclusion CAM use in England is common for musculoskeletal and mental health problems, but varies by gender, geography and SES. It is mainly self-referred and self-financed, some is GP endorsed/referred, especially for individuals of lower SES. Researchers, patients and commissioners should collaborate to research the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of CAM and consider its availability on the NHS

    Full details in the University publications repository