GP practice of the future

Ever wished you could go to your GP and be offered acupuncture, homeopathy or herbal medicine as an alternative to prescription drugs? The people of Cullompton, Devon have this choice at the College Surgery.

Three quarters of the British public would like to see complementary therapies available on the NHS according to a poll commissioned by the former Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health. It also claimed that 50 per cent of GP’s practices provide access to complementary medicine, although in truth this is more than likely to be osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture. The chances of getting massage or reflexology on the NHS are still slim.

Not for patients of the GP practice in Cullompton where Dr Michael Dixon has introduced over 20 complementary therapists alongside the normal GP services that would be expected anywhere. Patients have to pay for therapies such as healing, massage, acupuncture, or herbal medicine but at a reduced fee. The practice has its own organic and herb gardens and is next to a Boots store that stocks many of the remedies.

Dr Dixon wrote recently that the current approach to medicine is not patient-centred and takes little account to the patient’s background, culture and health belief. He says, ‘The integrated vision of general practice: a vision that is perceptive enough to acknowledge that health and wellbeing (i.e. the harmonisation of the body, mind and soul) transcends provenance by randomised control trial methodologies only.’

He favours ‘one that offers a wider choice of safe and effective therapies, while ensuring that patients do not turn their back on proven conventional medicine’.

What particularly pleases Dr Dixon is that he can provide solutions for patients that conventional medicine has little answers for. ‘I got into the integrated approach for purely selfish reasons. I used to dread appointments with patients with conditions from back pain to allergies, where modern medicine has little to offer. Now I’m able to steer people towards approaches that help them to get better.’

Anyone who pays for complementary therapies would love to see an integrated approach such as this which takes account of them as a person, rather than the doctor using a computer program to match your symptoms up to drugs. Dr Dixon hopes that his model of an integrated practice will ‘be of use to GPs and patients struggling towards a wider vision of what is possible when the soul is returned to medicine’.