Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Complementary Therapies

There are a wide variety of complementary therapies, and the term generally refers to therapies that are not used as part of conventional medicine. The position is now changing, and some healthcare professionals now offer complementary therapies to their patients. Complementary therapies that are performed by mainstream currently registered medical practitioners (GPs, nurses and chartered physiotherapists) can be recouped to HAA cardholders, under the conditions listed below. For example, a small but growing number of GPs now offer acupuncture. Some chartered physiotherapists provide massage-based therapies, manipulation-based therapies, or hydrotherapy. Registered nurses may have appropriate qualifications in massage-based therapies. Some registered chiropodists may have appropriate qualifications to provide reflexology.

In general, you should talk to your Hepatitis C Liaison Officer first to check the position regarding payment. The Hepatitis C Liaison Officer will recoup the cost of complementary therapies under the following criteria:

  • the therapist is a currently registered general practitioner, currently registered nurse or chartered physiotherapist, or in the case of reflexology a currently registered chiropodist;
  • the general practitioner, nurse, chartered physiotherapist or registered chiropodist has appropriate qualifications in the therapy being offered.

In addition:

  • if the service is not being provided to you by a GP or hospital consultant, you must obtain a referral for these services from a GP or hospital Consultant, and forward this referral to your Hepatitis C Liaison Officer with the first claim for payment.

If you are thinking about using complementary therapies of any kind, always ask your liver specialist first. Even therapies, herbs or supplements that seem harmless can cause unexpected problems, or can react badly with other conventional medicines or therapies that have been prescribed for you.

It is essential that your liver specialist approves of any complementary therapy that you are proposing to avail of. You should keep your liver specialist informed of any service or treatment you are undertaking, regardless of whether the HSE is recouping all or part of the cost or you are paying for it in full yourself.

For your own protection, you should check that your therapist has an acceptable level of professional indemnity or insurance. You should also agree on a course of treatment, and costs, before deciding to start any treatment.

At the moment, no complementary therapy is regulated by the Department of Health and Children, or by any recognised regulatory agency acting on its behalf. Neither are there any statutory registration bodies for persons offering these services. As a result, it is not possible to give any advice on appropriate qualifications for persons who are not registered GPs, nurses or chartered physiotherapists.

However, a national consultation process on the regulatory framework for complementary therapies is currently underway. As part of the consultation process, a National Working Group was set up by the Minister for Health and Children at the end of 2002 up to examine and consider regulatory issues. The results of this process will be monitored to see how it might affect the range of services that can be made available to HAA cardholders.








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