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Call for hypnosis to become NHS mainstay

Experts call for regular hypnosis in NHS to save ‘millions’

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 06 June 2011

Regular and common use of hypnosis in the NHS could help to save millions of pounds and allow patients quicker treatment, claim experts.

Representatives of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine Section are meeting today in London to discuss the issue at a case studies meeting.

As well as saving money for the NHS, greater and better use of hypnosis in the NHS for a wide range of common conditions would protect patients from inadequately qualified practitioners who cause harm and end up costing the NHS more, said the Section.

The Section is concerned that non-medically trained hypnotists often lack the understanding of the disease processes involved in the patients they are treating, so can cause real harm.

Many working with psychological conditions use techniques known to induce damaging ‘false memories’, believing that current problems stem from past traumas so terrible that the memory of them has been suppressed – a practice that worries the Section.

At the meeting today, the Section will hear from medically trained practitioners who use hypnosis to help treat conditions such as:

  • nausea caused by chemotherapy
  • children suffering anxiety and pain in A&E
  • dental anxiety
  • phobias
  • skin problems such as eczema.

Section president Jacky Owens, a qualified nurse who uses hypnosis in her work with cancer patients, said: “Conditions such as depression, pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affect millions of people in the UK and a great cost to the NHS. But hypnosis can often work where other treatments have been unsuccessful.

“If doctors were able to refer patients to properly trained hypnotherapists, it would save a cash-strapped NHS a great deal of money.

“Making hypnosis a standard part of the NHS toolbox would also lead to the public becoming better informed about the procedure and mean that vulnerable patients would be less likely to turn to hypno-cowboys.”

Hypnosis is now recognised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a possible intervention for IBS where other treatments are not having an effect.

“That’s a small step but we’re confident that with more research, hypnosis will be recognised as an extremely useful tool to be used alongside mainstream medicine,” said Ms Owens.

“What we need are doctors, dentists, nurses, psychologists, physiotherapists, radiotherapists – the whole gamut of people who treat patients – trained in using hypnosis as another tool in their treatment programme.”

The Section wanted the government to look at this issue.

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