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Research project: Evaluation of 5 element acupuncture as a model for integrated care in General practice

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In 2005, the King’s Fund offered funding for research into the integration of complementary therapies and primary health. After almost two years of investigation and preparation, the London Institute of Five Element Acupuncture (LIFEA) and academic partners, secured substantial funding for a long term study into the effects of Five Element Acupuncture in a primary care setting.

Many people have pain or other bodily symptoms that Western medicine can’t fully explain or treat. This study looks at whether acupuncture can help. A key element of the study was to determine if this treatment mode could be effectively integrated alongside conventional medical care.

120 patients from four London general practices (doctors’ surgeries) took part in this study:

All of those taking part had pains or other bodily symptoms that:

1. have lasted for at least 3 months
2. cause them a lot of distress
3. their doctor hasn’t been able to fully explain

As part of the study, patients received a six month course of classical acupuncture based on Chinese medicine. Treatments are delivered at patients’ own general practice by experienced acupuncturists, overseen by the Kite Clinic, a London acupuncture clinic. Half of the patients taking part in the study received acupuncture treatment straight away, with the other half receiving it in six months time. The group that patients are placed in was random.

Several times over the study year, patients are asked to fill in short health questionnaires. This allows us to compare the results for the two study groups and to work out whether any health changes experienced are due to acupuncture, to time passing or to other life factors. In addition, 20-30 patients are being interviewed twice during the months that they are being treated; informal, private, conversations enabling them to share their experiences of acupuncture with the study team in more detail.

Project team

Peter Griffiths

Project funder

King's fund

Related research groups

Health Work and Systems
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