Ladies and gentlemen, first let me say how delighted I am to be here today to celebrate the first award for good practice in a field that many of you will know is very dear to my heart Ð integrated medicine. Let me also say that, after many years of striving to raise awareness and stimulate debate about the possibilities of this quite revolutionary approach to healthcare, it gives me enormous pleasure to be among people who are really making it happen. I am also delighted to see so many members of Guild of Health Writers, whose organisation of this award has brought us together today.
In recent years I have been present at many meetings at which the way forward for integrated healthcare has been discussed. The Foundation for Integrated Medicine and its eminent advisers have taken the lead in identifying the educational, structural and research requirements needed to encourage orthodox and complementary disciplines to work together safely and effectively for the benefit of the patient. Yet I, and the Foundation's judges, are still astonished at the sheer diversity, the quality of work and the real integration of disciplines revealed by the 80 entries to this Award.
Reading down the entry list I see homoeopaths, osteopaths, reflexologists, acupuncturists, T'ai chi instructors, art therapists, chiropractors, herbalists, aromatherapists, working all over the country alongside NHS colleagues in acute hospitals, on children's wards, in nursing homes, in primary healthcare. There are entries from integrated teams in physiotherapy, mental health care, maternity care, and from specialist integrated teams focusing on cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, postnatal depression.
And there is little that is ad hoc or haphazard about these teams. According to their entries, most of the practitioners fulfil the criteria FIM has set out as gold standard goals Ð they are trained and qualified by reputable organisations, they are taking into account the evidence available when introducing therapies, they are working as professionals in teams of mutual respect.
The second important revelation of the award is that many of the entrants have found ways to research and prove the effectiveness Ð and cost effectiveness Ð of complementary therapies . It has been a common criticism that the research base for integrated medicine is at best flimsy, at worst non-existent. One of the obstacles always raised is that it is very difficult to trial complementary therapies in the rigorous randomised way that orthodox medicine deems to be the gold standard. This is, of course, ironic - given that less than 50 per cent of orthodox medicine is said to have passed such stringent tests, yet continues to be funded by the NHS.
However, many of the entries in this Award seem - through intensely hard work and innovation - to be finding ways to assess the real benefits of their therapies. Take, for example, the team at Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital, one of the three award finalists for their work with infant massage and mothers with postnatal depression. How, you might ask, can you possible assess the impact of massage on an infant who cannot talk? But by meticulously collating information on the cues that babies give when they respond to their mother, this is exactly what this team have done. Not only that but by using validated tools of mental health assessment, they have shown not only improved mother/child interaction, but also an improvement in the mother's mental state. And this in a condition that is almost intractable to any other intervention
This is valuable work Ð for the 70,000 mothers who suffer from postnatal depression in the UK each year, for their children who may suffer long term developmental damage because their mother is unable to relate to them - and also for all those working in integrated healthcare. It shows that with ingenuity and enthusiasm, it is possible to prove the benefits of complementary therapies
Equally valuable is the work of another finalist, the Glastonbury Health Centre where GP Roy Welford and his conventional and complementary colleagues provide a fully integrated primary care service. Right now, it is funded by the charitable trust and by the patients who pay the equivalent of a prescription charge for their complementary treatment. But again, by using combinations of well-established and scientifically accepted research tools, the team has been able to show that providing complementary therapy for patients is as cost effective as conventional treatment, and in many cases succeeds where orthodox medicine fails. This is tremendously exciting information Ð not only for the health centre who hope to prove to their local primary care funders that this care should be provided on the NHS, but for all of us who would like to see the NHS offering a broader kind of care.
Just two examples and there are plenty of others. What this award and its entrants show is that we are past the need to identify issues surrounding integrated healthcare. Two years ago FIM and its advisers set out clearly the kind of structures and skills needed to offer integrated medicine safely. The entrants in the Guild of Health Writers' Award for Good Practice in Integrated Healthcare show that it is possible to test and trial therapies in ways that provide analysis of outcomes at least as rigorous as many orthodox treatments. And funders of medical care and of medical research should take note. As many as half the population has now consulted a complementary practitioner. The Medical Research Council currently provides nearly £300 million in grants to conventional medical research but just over £500,000 to complementary therapy - on a study of back pain and chiropractic. It's time for this balance to change. This award and the practitioners Ð conventional and complementary Ð show integrated medicine can work and is working. To some people I'd like to say "I told you so!" But to others, those who have been working toward greater appreciation of this great move forward in healthcare, I'm happy to say "here is progress Ð let's do more."