Acupunct Med 30:163-169 doi:10.1136/acupmed-2012-010150
  • Original papers

‘All in the same boat’: a qualitative study of patients' attitudes and experiences in group acupuncture clinics

Press Release
  1. Adrian WhiteA3
  1. 1Primary Care Research Group, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  2. 2School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  3. 3Primary Care Research Group, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK
  1. Correspondence to Anthea Asprey, Primary Care Research Group, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Smeall Building, Magdalen Road, Exeter EX1 2LU, UK; anthea.asprey{at}
  1. Contributors AA planned the study, conducted and analysed the interviews and drafted the report. CP planned the study, collaborated in analysing the interviews and contributed to the report. AW conceived and planned the study, contributed to analysing the interviews, contributed to the report and is guarantor for the study. Marion Richardson, Pam Richmond and Rieko Ito (collaborators) ran the acupuncture clinics, identified and approached the interviewees and provided interview data (see Acknowledgements).

  • Accepted 29 March 2012
  • Published Online First 20 August 2012


Background Group acupuncture clinics have been introduced in a London hospital and in two general practices in Hertfordshire for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis (OA). Encouraging preliminary reports have been published of the efficacy of the treatment delivered in this setting but its acceptability to patients has not yet been established. The aim was to investigate the acceptability and perceived advantages and disadvantages of acupuncture delivered in the group setting for the treatment of knee OA.

Methods Semistructured interviews were conducted with 16 patients in their own homes and with four nurses over the telephone. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, fully anonymised and analysed thematically.

Results Group acupuncture was delivered with enthusiasm by nurses, was acceptable and popular with patients and recognised to be cost-efficient. Factors affecting acceptability were situational, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Situational factors included adequacy of the physical space used, flexibility of the appointment system and the changing and adaptable nature of the group. Interpersonal factors were mutual support, the exchange of information, the provision of mixed or single-sex sessions and the role of the acupuncture nurse. Intrapersonal factors that increased acceptability were less clear, but nurses expressed the view that the group setting was less suitable for patients with complex conditions or severe pain.

Conclusions Acceptability is very high and may be maximised by taking a number of factors into account: full information should be provided before treatment begins; flexibility should be maintained in the appointment system and different levels of contact between fellow patients should be fostered; sufficient space and staffing should be provided and single-sex groups used wherever possible.


  • Funding British Medical Acupuncture Society and Ann Hill Research Trust.

  • Competing interests AA, AW and CP have been paid lecture fees and travel expenses from the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS). AW is paid by the BMAS as Editor of the journal Acupuncture in Medicine and receives royalties on books on acupuncture. The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry received a research grant from the BMAS and Ann Hill Research Trust for the present study.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the South West NHS Research Ethics Committee (10/H0206/6).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Considering the nature of the original data, they will not be made publically available.