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Researchers appeal for help in finding information for project on complementary medicine

17 July 2015

A new project has started that is investigating the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for multimorbid patients with mental health and musculoskeletal problems in primary care. The researchers are looking for help in gathering grey literature and case studies where CAM has been used alongside conventional NHS treatment.

Past research has shown that as many 25% of the population have used a complementary therapy in the past 12 months but nearly all these people have had to pay for treatment.

Older people often suffer from more than one illness at any one time i.e. suffer from multimorbidity. It does not seem to be in either patients' or doctors' best interests to treat each illness separately when there might be benefits in patients' health outcomes and quality of life by taking a more holistic approach.

Led by Professor Debbie Sharp from the Centre for Academic Primary Care, researchers are exploring the paradigm of integrative medicine in this study which combines conventional NHS treatment with complementary therapies. "We believe that mental health problems and musculoskeletal disorders are the two areas where this approach is most likely to deliver health gains in the future," said Prof Sharp.

The purpose of the study is to find out what integrative medicine approach would be worth studying in a randomised control trial (RCT); which combination of treatments is most likely to improve patient outcomes; which complementary treatments might be feasible, plausible and acceptable for potential integration into primary care; and what is the best RCT design.

The researchers will carry out a scoping review of systematic reviews of CAM for mental health and musculoskeletal problems to find out what is the evidence and where are the gaps in terms of effectiveness and cost effectiveness. They also plan to carry out a public survey to find out what CAM/integrated medicine the public uses and want as well as focus groups with GPs, CAM practitioners and commissioners across the UK.

The team is looking for help in finding the following:

Grey literature – systematic reviews

Any unpublished or ongoing systematic reviews using CAM for musculoskeletal and/or mental health, particularly for the following conditions:

  • back, neck, shoulder, knee pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia , chronic pain, headache


  • anxiety, depression, stress, bipolar, chronic fatigue syndrome and sleep problems

Case studies
Services in the UK where an integrated approach - CAM alongside conventional NHS treatment - is currently provided or has recently been provided. These can be in places where this is currently happening, but also where it has been attempted but been unsuccessful. These services need to:

  • be in the UK
  • target patients with musculoskeletal and/or mental health issues
  • provide the CAM through primary care e.g. GP referral to CAM, GP practising CAM
  • offer CAM which is at least partially funded by the NHS or charitable funds etc i.e. the patient pays nothing/very little

If you have information that could help towards this study, please contact Ava Lorenc (

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