Sixty-five selected patients with pain, mainly of musculo-skeletal origin, were offered treatment by a qualified medical acupuncturist in his general practice surgery as an alternative to hospital outpatient referral. The patients assessed their own outcomes on a digital scale: there were 46 successful treatments and 14 failures, with 5 being lost to follow up. The cost of acupuncture treatment was compared to that of the referral that would have been made if acupuncture had not been offered. The acupuncture was found to have cost £10,943 against a minimum likely cost for hospital referrals of £26,783. A minimum total saving for all 60 patients of £13,916 was determined, giving an average saving per patient of £232. Additional hidden savings through avoiding further hospital procedures and expenditure on medication were not taken into account. It is concluded that acupuncture in selected patients and when used by an appropriately qualified practitioner appears to be a cost-effective therapy for use in general practice, reducing the need for more expensive hospital referrals.
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