Homeopathy4health

7 May 2008

‘Is an alternative just the tonic?’ Northern Ireland’s ‘Get Well UK’ project

Although Homeopathy is under threat on the mainland, BBC Northern Ireland and The Belfast Telegraph  report on succesful homeopathic treatment in a trial of alternative therapies in two Northern Ireland GP clinics (Get Well UK):

BBC Northern Ireland: “Northern Ireland is said to use more prescription drugs than any other UK region. While tablets may alleviate symptoms, they can be addictive and have side effects. A BBC NI documentary looks at the alternatives:

Londonderry woman Frances Gillen was addicted to prescription drugs for more than 20 years. The legacy of the Troubles and raising five children by herself took its toll. After being caught up in gunfire, she slid into depression and refused to leave home for years.

It affected me… I stayed in the house for the guts of three years, or maybe more, without going out. The only place I would have gone to was to go over to the doctors,” she said.  “It got that I would not even wash myself. I got the TV brought up into my room. “I didn’t want to commit suicide but I really didn’t want to go on if this was life, if this was my life… the quicker the better, I could go.

However, her life was turned around when she tried homeopathy as part of a pilot scheme being run in two centres in Northern Ireland.  The Get Well Scheme allowed GPs to refer patients to complementary therapists, with the NHS paying for their treatment.

Within weeks, Frances felt her depression lift and she started to resume normal life; she also came off all prescription medication.

“Now I feel like 16 again… well 30,” she joked.

Belfast Telegraph: “Traditionally Northern Ireland has always used more prescription drugs than anywhere else in the UK. We’re fond of our medicines and we’re fond of going to our doctors. The doctor has always been at the centre of our society. Attitudes, however, are changing and for decades patients are now turning to ancient forms of medicine such as acupuncture and aromatherapy — among other therapies.

In 2006 the government controversially decided to do the same and announced a new initiative — the Get Well Scheme. The trial provided complementary therapies to patients within two health centres in Northern Ireland, the Holywood Arches Health Centre in east Belfast and the Shantallow Health Centre in Londonderry, with the treatment paid for by the NHS.

Its aim was to see if complementary therapies could help the health service be more cost-effective by making patients feel better without the use of expensive prescription drugs.

It was designed to help people with problems such as depression and anxiety.

Then we meet Anne McCloskey, a straight-talking GP from the Shantallow Health Centre whose view on complementary medicine differs but changes over time.

In part, her conversion is due to the case of one remarkable patient featured in the film.

Every GP, Anne McCloskey says, has a set of what is referred to as ‘heart-sink’ patients; those who make the GP’s heart sink as soon as they walk through the door. Some ‘heart-sinks’ will visit their GP as often as every second day and, no matter what the GP does, they continue to decline despite there being no clear cause of sickness.

Dr McCloskey’s ‘heart-sink’ patient was Frances Gillen. For over two decades Frances had been suffering from depression which she says began as a result of ‘Troubles-related’ anxiety coupled by the stress of bringing up a large family.

In the film she recalls an incident in which she was almost hit by gunfire and, as a result, refused to leave the house for a number of years.

Frances became heavily dependent on prescription drugs and was one of the first patients Dr McCloskey referred to the Get Well Scheme and her subsequent story is a success.” 

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