On Friday I was back at college, continuing with the paediatric acupuncture diploma study, and discussions in class raised a very interesting point about Ireland that I had never realised before.
The Irish have to pay for their doctors appointments, and not just a token fee like we do for NHS dentists, they pay private rates which varies between €50 and €100. And yes, that is for a 10 minute appointment! Furthermore prescriptions are €25-€50, not around £7 as they are in the UK under the NHS at present. So what does this have to do with acupuncture and alternative medicine? Why should you or I care if they have to pay in Ireland?
Well, the answer is this, when people have to pay for healthcare – and I mean healthcare as an umbrella term, to include conventional Western medicine, and alternative or complementary medicine like acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy and so on – they think more carefully about what treatment they wish to invest their money in.
If you’re faced with having to shell out €60 on a 10 minute appointment with the doctor, and then potentially another €25-€50 on each prescription, an acupuncture session at €60 for a whole hour, suddenly doesn’t seem quite so expensive, unreasonable or off the table, does it?!
The Irish are therefore more open to acupuncture and its positive role in the healthcare system. It is seen as more of an equal, it is a valid first-line option, instead of being a “last resort” once patients have been back and forth to the doctors numerous times to no avail. I am often the “end of the line” person that patients come to once they have tried all the conventional stuff – been on a whole host of different drugs, had many investigations or tests, all suppressing symptoms (or worse, making no difference whatsoever) without necessarily treating the underlying root cause of the illness. I wish that wasn’t the case, I wish I would be the first person they think to call!
So, I can’t help but feel slightly envious of my fellow acupuncturists in Ireland, they are practising on a level playing field! They really are lucky! And I’m not having a dig at the NHS, I think they do a good job within their limited means, and for some issues conventional intervention is still necessary. But I do believe a large number of repeat prescriptions or ongoing issues could be served more efficiently long term with complementary medicine like acupuncture.
The role of GPs does have a part to play here, but actually the onus is on patients themselves. If patients were forced to be more selective or mindful about their health decisions, through a financial consideration or commitment, then it could massively reduce the number of people who “pop to the doctors” as a knee jerk reaction. It would shift UK society from the “sticking plaster” approach, to a pro-active, preventative healthcare framework, building and maintaining a positive level of health from the inside out, including diet, lifestyle, stress and emotional factors.
The idea of being “in better overall health” becomes far more appealing when money is a factor. Who wants to see the doctor for 10 minutes once a month (or more!) at €60, if you can see an acupuncturist for an hour, and have support and sustained longterm health at the same price?!
It really raises the question of the VALUE of health, the value people put on themselves and their overall level of health. If you can’t invest in yourself, who can you / are you investing in?! For me, I have chosen acupuncture over nights out on the town, a new pair of boots, a new outfit or days out. For the last 11 years, given the choice, its been acupuncture every time, and I still have acupuncture regularly.
Acupuncture wins every time because I value it (and its affects) highly. But perhaps more importantly I value MYSELF highly, and put my health first. I have chosen to invest my money in myself, in my own health. And that’s my holistic health – my mental, emotional and physical health, which you just cannot get (in my humble opinion) from a pill at the doctors.
Are you ready to invest in yourself and your longterm health? If so, get in touch here… or maybe you already do invest in health and think carefully about your treatment choices, leave me your thoughts in the comments box below!