An acupuncture service is well established within a pain clinic in Nottingham, England, and is now unable to meet the increasing demand for treatment despite recent expansion. Patients used to be offered training in self-acupuncture. This was withdrawn because of safety concerns, but is being considered again as a way of meeting the demand. There is little published research on the topic, so a survey of 42 English hospitals was conducted to establish whether acupuncture services are provided, and to discover whether others were offering training in self-acupuncture to patients. Thirty hospitals replied, 23 of which offer an acupuncture service. The average waiting time for the first acupuncture treatment was 18.5 weeks, and the average waiting time for follow up treatments was nine weeks. One hospital taught patients auricular self-acupuncture, another was planning to teach patients, and a third hospital had previously taught patients but stopped. Discussing these findings, concerns are raised about the safety of self-acupuncture, and issues about patient selection, training, information, supervision and supply of materials are reviewed. A debate on these issues would be valuable.
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