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Complement Ther Med. 2003 Sep;11(3):168-76.

Characteristics associated with reported CAM use in patients attending six GP practices in the Tayside and Grampian regions of Scotland: a survey.

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Highlands and Islands Health Research Institute, Inverness, UK.



To study the nature of CAM use in primary care attenders, the involvement of their NHS healthcare professionals in their CAM care and differences in characteristics between CAM users and non-users.


Postal questionnaire for primary care attenders and analysis of practice leaflets.


Six Scottish GP practices with a range of practice size, CAM provision within practice, deprivation and rurality.


Five hundred and fourteen primary care attenders described 1194 incidences of CAM use and gave details about their main therapy. 37% had contact with a practitioner, the rest mainly self-prescribed. The perceived effectiveness of CAM was high. Patients used CAM for a variety of health problems, mainly as an adjuvant to orthodox medicine rather than an alternative. The involvement of the NHS in CAM delivery was small but there is a significant role to ensure patient safety, especially regarding herb-drug interactions. Disclosure rate of CAM use was low. CAM offered options in areas where the provision in the NHS is difficult, including musculo-skeletal and mental health problems. Provision of CAM by the GP is associated with higher CAM use in primary care attenders.


It is recommended that healthcare professionals include patients' use of CAM in history taking and clinical decision making.

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