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The paradox of non-evidence based, publicly funded complementary alternative medicine in the English National Health Service: An explanation

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  • Sheppard, Maria K.

Abstract

Despite the unproven effectiveness of many practices that are under the umbrella term ‘complementary alternative medicine’ (CAM), there is provision of CAM within the English National Health Service (NHS). Moreover, although the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence was established to promote scientifically validated medicine in the NHS, the paradox of publicly funded, non-evidence based CAM can be explained as linked with government policy of patient choice and specifically patient treatment choice. Patient choice is useful in the political and policy discourse as it is open to different interpretations and can be justified by policy-makers who rely on the traditional NHS values of equity and universality. Treatment choice finds expression in the policy of personalised healthcare linked with patient responsibilisation which finds resonance in the emphasis CAM places on self-care and self-management. More importantly, however, policy-makers also use patient choice and treatment choice as a policy initiative with the objective of encouraging destabilisation of the entrenched healthcare institutions and practices considered resistant to change. This political strategy of system reform has the unintended, paradoxical consequence of allowing for the emergence of non-evidence based, publicly funded CAM in the NHS. The political and policy discourse of patient choice thus trumps evidence based medicine, with patients that demand access to CAM becoming the unwitting beneficiaries.

Suggested Citation

  • Sheppard, Maria K., 2015. "The paradox of non-evidence based, publicly funded complementary alternative medicine in the English National Health Service: An explanation," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 119(10), pages 1375-1381.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:hepoli:v:119:y:2015:i:10:p:1375-1381
    DOI: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2015.03.007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Waltraud Schelkle, Joan Costa-i-Font & Christa van Wijnbergen, 2010. "Consumer choice, welfare reform and participation in Europe. A framework for analysis," RECON Online Working Papers Series 26, RECON.
    2. Adam Oliver, 2005. "The English National Health Service: 1979-2005," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(S1), pages 75-99.
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