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The effectiveness of an acupuncturist working in general practice – an audit
  1. Patrick W Harborow, general practitioner
  1. Jane Ogden, reader in health, psychology
  1. Department of General, Practice, Guys, Kings and St, Thomas’ School of Medicine, King’s College, London
  1. Jane.Ogden{at}


This audit was based in general practice and examined 49 consecutive referrals to a UK trained traditional Chinese acupuncturist. It aimed to assess the type of patients referred to an acupuncturist, subsequent changes in health status, whether the effectiveness of acupuncture was related to the type of presenting problem and to examine which factors were predictive of the success of acupuncture. The referred patients had a wide variety of conditions which were categorised as to whether or not there was empirical evidence from trials of responsiveness to acupuncture (evidence based vs non evidence based). Patients completed measures of their health status prior to treatment and at two and six month follow ups. In addition, the referring GP’s beliefs about the prognosis of the problem and the therapist’s and patient’s expectations of success were measured at baseline. The results showed that referred patients reported poorer health status than a historical sample of general practice patients and that they showed significant improvements in all aspects of health status following acupuncture. In particular, patients showed improved energy, pain, emotional reactions, sleep and reduced social isolation at two months which were maintained at six months. Physical mobility was improved at six months. In addition, the results indicated that the best predictors of effectiveness were the therapist’s and patient’s expectations of success at baseline. Effectiveness was not related to the category of condition (evidence based or not) nor to the GP’s expectations about the prognosis of the condition. The results are discussed in terms of implications for the role of acupuncture in General Practice and selectively targeting patients who would be responsive to such an approach.

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