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Evaluating an NHS complementary therapies service

Briscoe J, Browne N. Evaluating an NHS complementary therapies service. BMJ Support Palliat Care. [Epub ahead of print].

Introduction A complementary therapies service was introduced at Whipps Cross University Hospital for patients with cancer and palliative care needs. The service was evaluated using an evaluation tool. A range of therapies are offered including aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, shiatsu and homoeopathy. They are provided on a one-to-one basis for patients and, to a lesser extent, for carers; a weekly relaxation class also serves as a drop-in support group. We support self-help in a range of ways, from providing simple items, such as aromasticks, to offering training on mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

Aim(s) and method(s) National guidelines suggest the main purposes of service evaluation are to analyse patient views, wellbeing and outcomes, and measure symptom management. The Measure Your Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCaW) questionnaire meets these needs, and was designed specifically for evaluating supportive cancer care interventions, including complementary therapies. We use MYCaW to identify patients' own priorities for interventions and enable them to offer personalised feedback. Results can provide vital data about their experience and symptom management, particularly how this changes over time and how other aspects of patients' lives are affected.

Results The results indicated a 30% perceived improvement of symptoms, including wellbeing. Results for male patients were slightly higher than female patients.

Conclusion(s) The MYCaW questionnaire has generated a local evidence base that shows perceived improvements in symptoms and wellbeing following complementary treatments. It is important to undertake individualised qualitative evaluations as well as quantitative studies. Evidence demonstrating efficacy is vital in all areas of healthcare, including complementary therapies, to justify their provision.

Briscoe J, Browne N. Evaluating an NHS complementary therapies service. BMJ Support Palliat Care. [Epub ahead of print].