Newsletter of the Somerset Trust for Integrated Healthcare


We are delighted to say the Trust continues to attract sponsorship and funding and we can happily and confidently look forward to continuing our innovative work into the Millennium.

At a recent Trust meeting we identified the tasks for the Trust to be -
1. To aim for the integration of our complementary medicine service into the NHS by April 2001.
2. To research into various aspects of Integrated Complementary Medicine
3. To continue to subsidise complementary medicine treatments at Glastonbury Health Centre for those patients unable to afford full cost treatment
4. To establish links with other providers of Integrated Complementary Medicine

Our major task is to secure the longer-term future funding by the NHS. As the NHS undergoes another reorganisation it is our local Primary Care Group - Mendip Primary Care Group - who in future will be responsible for the funding of all services. We are already in discussion with Mendip PHC to see where and when and how we may approach them for funding from April 2001. As always the NHS is under-resourced for the demands made on it but we need to be prepared to put our case strongly and convincingly and with public support - watch this space!

With our aim in mind we are adopting certain changes to the referral system for treatment. We are mindful of the fact that demand for our service is always in excess of supply of appointments and we already have a waiting list - we feel we need to operate the waiting list more rationally and effectively and in-line with our experience of treatment and the existing evidence supporting the use of complementary treatment in the management of illness

In future we will be prioritising our referrals according to those conditions best helped by complementary medicine, especially in shorter-term treatments. At present we do not have the resources to offer patients long-term treatment courses. In order to be fair about appointment allocation, for patients requiring more than one course of treatment, we are adopting a policy of a maximum of 2 courses of treatment in any one year, and a maximum or 3 courses of treatment in total for any 1 problem.

The conditions getting priority treatment are:
Osteopathy - back and neck problems
Massage therapy - stress and muscular problems
Herbal medicine - digestive problems, menstrual problems, psychological problems
Acupuncture - chronic painful conditions, migraines and headaches.

Other conditions will also be referred but will be allocated less priority in waiting-time

We feel this is an important rationalisation of our service to seek NHS funding - but please let us know your thoughts on


Some of our patients may have met our present Researcher, Mr Richard Gould of Exeter University. Richard is currently conducting an inquiry into the role played by complementary medicine in the overall coping strategies adopted by patients with chronic illness - this includes any increased understanding of their illness and any lifestyle changes made after treatment. Richard is doing the research as part of his MA, and our Trust has made a contribution to his travel costs to and from Glastonbury. Richard hopes to have completed his inquiry by September.

Our future research plans are still being finalised. We wish to explore further the cost-effectiveness question of complementary medicine in Primary Care, although this is a very complex research question. We also wish to follow up on the quality of care received by patients having complementary treatment, and to demonstrate the changes in health produced by complementary medical treatment. Our previously published Report showing the benefits of our service is still available for purchase by anyone interested - price £5 with all proceeds going to the Trust. Please inquire at reception at the Health Centre.


Two groups of patients with persisting neck pain were given six weekly treatments of either acupuncture or physiotherapy. Improvement was the same in both groups with relief of pain in over 80% at 6 weeks and a little less at 6 months - however the cost of the acupuncture treatment was one fifth the cost of the physiotherapy - (NHS please note!) (British Journal of Rheumatology 1998 vol 37pp 118-22)

An enquiry was made into the use of complementary therapies in 300 consecutive outpatients from the ethnically mixed population attending the clinics of the Central Middlesex Hospital. Overall two-thirds used complementary therapies. The frequency of usage was greatest among black patients (85%) who tended to prefer herbal remedies. Asian patients (76%) favoured herbal and ayurvedic remedies, while white patients(52%) favoured acupuncture and homoeopathy. Almost all patients felt that such treatments should be available on the NHS. (Complementary Therapies in Medicine 1998 vol 6 pp127-132)

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is a genetically engineered copy of the natural hormone produced by cows. It is manufactured by Monsanto and will produce a 10 to 20% increase in milk yield - so much so that in the USA milk production is so high that the US government buys up surplus milk in order to maintain the price. Unfortunately the cows frequently suffer from mastitis and require antibiotic treatment with dangers of transmission in the milk and of antibiotic resistance. Moreover milk from hormone-treated cows contains an increased level of Insulin-like Growth Factor which has been linked to an increased incidence of breast, colon and prostate cancer. At present the hormone is banned in the European Union but Monsanto and the US government are lobbying hard to lift the ban. (The Ecologist 1998 vol 28 pp 266-9)

Breast cancer sadly is a common condition each year affecting 45 out of 1000 women aged between 50 and 70. Many women also take HRT. A comprehensive study of 50,000 women showed that HRT can increase this risk slightly - if HRT is taken for 5 years then 47 out of 1000 women would contract breast cancer, if taken for 10 years then 51 out of 1000 women would contract breast cancer, and if taken for 15 years then 57 out of 1000 women would contract breast cancer - ie. 12 in 1000 more women would have breast cancer than if HRT had not been used. (But in the statistics debate, HRT does confer some protection against ovarian cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and possibly dementia) There are complementary medical and dietary alternatives to many of the conditions for which HRT is used.

A recent study in America confirmed that trees can heal! Apparently those patients in a hospital ward with a window facing green space and trees have on average a 24 -hour shorter stay in hospital for the same condition as those patients in a hospital ward looking onto a brick wall!


Herbal Medicine and Hay-Fever
If for you the advent of Summer means reaching for the sun-lotion, then spare a thought for the thousands for whom it means reaching for a handkerchief. For as well as sunshine, strawberries and short sleeves, Summer is also the season of hay-fever.

Although mostly associated with allergy to plant pollens, the symptoms of hay-fever (sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, running nose) can also be caused or exacerbated by generally poor air quality due to build-up of traffic fumes and other airborne pollution. Many people who did not suffer from the condition in the past seem to have developed it since the widespread introduction of new crops, especially oil seed rape and linseed. Whatever the causes in individual sufferers, the effect is much the same: cold-like misery in the midst of the very time of year when one wants to be outside enjoying the best of the weather (well, in theory anyway!).

Many conventional over-the-counter remedies are available to combat the symptoms of hay-fever. The problem with these is that the majority are based on a group of drugs known as antihistamines. Whilst effective at controlling the allergic reaction that causes the major symptoms of hay-fever, for many people they produce a variety of unpleasant side-effects, most notably drowsiness.

Fortunately, Mother Nature not only produces the pollen that causes hay-fever, she also thoughtfully provides safe and effective remedies to counter it! Professional herbalists often use a Chinese plant called Ma-Huang (Ephedra sinica). However, as this plant is rather potent and may be unsuitable for certain people, its use is restricted to practitioners. Nonetheless, there are a number of effective and safe herbal remedies that may be used to self-treat hay-fever.

Here is a recipe for a herbal tea that has brought relief to many:
• Chamomile flowers (Chamomilla recucita) - 3parts
• Nettles (Urtica dioica) -2 parts
• St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) -1 part

Put 2 teaspoonfuls of the mixture in a jug, pour on 1/3 pint boiling water, cover and infuse for approx. 3 minutes. Strain and drink, adding a little honey if desired. For itchy eyes, a tea made from fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare) is very effective as an eyewash. Simmer about two teaspoons of fennel seeds in a covered pan (not aluminium) for 1 minute (or you can use fennel seed teabags if you don’t like the fiddle !). Strain well (the last thing you need are bits of seed in your eye!); you can use a piece of fine cloth, or better still a coffee filter paper.

Allow the liquid to cool, then either bathe the eyes with it using an eye-bath, or soak some cotton wool pads in it and place these over your closed eyelids for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat the procedure whenever your eyes get itchy, but make sure to make the mixture freshly each day.

Remember also that precautionary measures can help reduce the problem: close windows at peak times (morning and mid-afternoon), wear sunglasses (preferably wrap-arounds: not only do they look "way cool" but they help reduce pollen-strikes on your eyeballs!), and avoid running romantically through fields of long grass! Washing your hair in the evening, and changing out of your clothes away from the bedroom helps prevent importing the dreaded pollen into your sleeping space.

If all else fails, try a camel-trekking holiday in the Sahara: no pollen there!