NHS trial to look at Ayurvedic remedy as a replacement for antibiotics for colds and the flu


Could an Ayurvedic remedy offer an alternative to antibiotics for colds and the flu? This is the question being asked by GPs wary of overprescribing antibiotics, where they are sometimes not needed.

A new trial led by the University of Southampton will enable 20 GP surgeries in south east England to offer andrographis, or a placebo, to patients to examine its effects on sinusitis, coughs and sore throats.

This trial forms part of the NHS’ five year antimicrobial resistance action plan, that aims to see antibiotic prescriptions drop by 15% by 2025.

This is the first trial of its kind in the west, following more than 30 trials in the east that showed that andrographis had potential benefits for patients with colds or the flu.

Speaking to the Telegraph about the study, Dr Michael Dixon, speaker at the 2018 FHT Conference and NHS England’s National Clinical Lead for Social Prescription, said ‘With the NHS confirming its five-year antimicrobial resistance action plan this research programme is extremely useful.

‘Involving family doctors from the outset is especially welcome as GPs are on the frontline in reducing reliance on antibiotics.

‘To have the prospect of a natural remedy like andrographis able to enhance a patient’s resistance would be a big step forward.’

Find out more

Dr Chatterjee looks at the real causes of depression in new podcast

Dr Chatterjee1GP, Author and TV Presenter, Dr Rangan Chatterjee looks at uncovering the real causes of depression in part one of his latest Feel Better, Live More podcast.

Rangan talks to author and journalist, Johann Hari, who says although we have been told a story that drugs are a solution to depression and anxiety, in many cases the cause is not in our biology but in the way that we live. He argues that being depressed or anxious does not mean that you are crazy, weak or a machine with broken parts, rather that your natural psychological needs are not being met.

They discuss  how loneliness affects us and how social prescribing can transform lives; how societal values have been corrupted and the affect this is having on our health; and the role of the workplace, and how having autonomy and choices can reduce the likelihood of depression and anxiety.

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In the interview Johann Hari talks about Sir Sam Everington, who he describes as one of the heroes of his book, Lost Connections. Sir Sam Everington is one of the pioneers of social prescribing and will be familiar to FHT members as one of the speakers at our 2018 FHT Conference, where he spoke about how he has implemented social prescribing in Bromley By Bow, London.

Listen to the podcast here



NHS England to recruit 1,000 social prescribing link workers

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An army of advisers will be recruited to help patients live fitter, healthier lives and combat anxiety, loneliness and depression under recent plans by NHS England to ramp up social prescribing.

Around half of GP appointments are not directly related to medical conditions, according to experts. Growing evidence shows that referrals to community services such as exercise or art classes, history groups and even ballroom dancing can boost health and wellbeing more than dishing out pills or other treatments.

Now NHS England plans to recruit 1,000 social prescribing ‘link workers’ as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. The link workers will be able to give people time to talk about what matters to them and support them to find suitable activities that are a better alternative to medication as part of a step change in the provision of ‘personalised care’.

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Dr Michael Dixon, Chair of the College of Medicine, welcomed the news. The GP and social prescribing campaigner said: ‘This is excellent news for general practice, which is on its knees. This extra support of pharmacists, physiotherapists, social prescribers and others will make a great difference to the workload of each GP.

‘Patients want a return to the time when they had ‘their doctor’. These new developments will greatly help that, but we will also require more GPs at a time when their numbers have actually been going down during years when the number of specialists has vastly increased.

‘Enabling practice to provide accessible, personal and continuing care should now be the NHS’s number one priority as all the research shows that this is the best way to reduce deaths, improve health and enable the NHS to be financially sustainable.

‘This announcement is also a paradigm change for general practice. Every GP and patient will in future have access to social prescription.

‘It is recognition that medicine now needs to go beyond pills and procedures and that the future sustainability of our health system will depend upon enabling people and communities to maximise their role as agents of health and healing themselves. This is a red-letter day for the College of Medicine, which has pressed the cause for change during times when medicine has been too narrow and biomedical.’

Michael will be offering FHT members some tips on how to connect with these new link workers in the Spring issue of International Therapist magazine.


Quote of the week

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Social prescription can have a profound effect on patients. At the 2018 FHT Conference, Dr Michael Dixon said, ‘Those who use hospital services can be greatly helped by social prescription. In Rotherham they’ve given social prescription for those who use hospitals most and they’ve found they used hospitals 20% less by the end of the year.’

Conference to address the integration of yoga within the NHS


Tickets are said to be selling fast for the Yoga In Healthcare Conference, held from 15 to 17 February 2019. The conference will bring together leaders and pioneers in yoga, healthcare, research and government to express yoga’s value in public health.

One of the speakers at the event is Dr Michael Dixon, a leading figure in healthcare and Chair of the College of Medicine. FHT members will be familiar with Dr Dixon, after his exceptional talk at last year’s FHT Conference, where he discussed social prescription and the benefits of integrating complementary therapies within the NHS.

Speaking on behalf of the College of Medicine, Dr Dixon said, ‘We are delighted to be associated with the yoga conference. Therapeutic yoga should be on the menu of every social prescribing service. It is good for your physical and mental health and boosts your resilience.

‘There is also plenty of evidence suggesting that it can be helpful for those with diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as being effective for those living with injuries or recovering from illness. Therapeutic yoga combines restorative yoga (supported postures), a combination of breath work and hands on therapy, and guided meditation techniques with the aim of reducing stress on the body and improving wellbeing.’

Find out more about the Yoga in Healthcare Conference

Read more about social prescription

FHT Conference supports integrated healthcare

At yesterday’s FHT Conference we were delighted to bring together leading experts in research, education and health and social care, to discuss the integration of complementary therapies into mainstream care.


Held at The King’s Fund, London, on 29 November, the conference got under way with two presentations that focused on research. Professor Nicola Robinson discussed some key issues surrounding the collection and use of evidence base for therapies such as acupuncture, while Dr Julie McCullough highlighted the positive findings of a trial that looked at the impact of antenatal reflexology on women with pregnancy-related low back and/or pelvic girdle pain.


The talks generated interesting discussions on the merits of qualitative and quantitative research and what therapists new to research could do to prove the efficacy of their therapies. Look out for an article by Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown and Nicola Brough, on two different patient-reported outcome measures that are suitable for complementary therapies and integrated care, in the Winter 2019 issue of International Therapist, published in January.


Delegates also enjoyed listening to presentations from two of the most influential GPs in health care and trailblazers in social prescription—Sir Sam Everington and Dr Michael Dixon. Sir Everington left delegates captivated with an insight into Bromley By Bow Centre, a practice that has transformed health care in one of the most diverse and economically deprived areas in London, through community-based integrated services and referrals. Sir Everington told us that the philosophy at Bromley By Bow is ‘it’s not what’s the matter with the patient, it’s what matters to the patient’.


Dr Michael Dixon looked at the potential of social prescribing and personal health budgets, giving us an overview of the Culm Valley Integrated Centre For Health in Devon. Like Bromley By Bow, Dr Dixon’s practice champions social prescribing and community health, through integrated care but serves a very different local community. Dr Dixon told us that if patient-centred community care can work in both Bromley and the Culm Valley, it can be implemented anywhere in the UK. Discussions afterwards centred on how therapists could convince the NHS to work with them in their local communities. Both GPs said it is important to ‘win over the hearts’ of medical professionals and although this can take time, it is important to persist.

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Talks by Anita Mehrez, MFHT, a member of the complementary health and wellbeing team at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, and Jennifer Young, MFHT, founder of Beauty Despite Cancer, offered delegates an insight into how  therapies have been successfully integrated into the NHS, working alongside conventional medical care to support those impacted by cancer. Jennifer found the NHS in her area very open to working with her and was even approached by her local hospital to set up an appearance and wellbeing clinic within a specialist cancer centre.

The day’s programme was then rounded off by conference host, Janey Lee Grace—a regular presenter on Radio 2 and UK Health Radio—announcing the winners of the 2018 FHT Excellence Awards, which serve to recognise those raising the bar in therapy training and practice.

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President of the FHT, Chris Byrne, says: ‘Everyone at the FHT is extremely proud of this event, not least because of the incredible speakers who took time out of their very busy schedules to share with us their vision of what truly integrated healthcare looks like. I personally came away inspired to think of new ways we can all work together to ensure even more people get access to the best of both conventional  and complementary care, which in turn will help to relieve some of the burden currently being placed on our healthcare system.’

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FHT member, Jacky Huson called the Conference ‘A fantastic and inspiring day’ and says ‘it was very affirming to hear speakers in the biomedical field being so supportive and proactive in integrating complementary therapies into their practice and promoting social prescription. At last a sensible way forward giving choice and responsibility to patients, with a real role for therapists.’

Helen Robinson, MFHT, says ‘Thank you for an absolutely excellent day, all the speakers were absolutely superb. I’ve come away buzzing with all the potential. Thank you so much….I’m very proud to be an FHT member.’



Reading could help people experiencing loneliness

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Around 9 million people in the UK say they often or always feel lonely, a figure that is expected to get worse by 2030.

A significant body of evidence has shown that reading could help halt the loneliness epidemic facing Britain, according to a report by leading think tank, Demos and charity The Reading Agency.

The report, entitled ‘A Society of Readers’ says that reading books can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness for people aged 18-64 and it is also associated with having close relationships.

The report coincides with the launch of a new programme from The Reading Agency called Reading Friends, funded by the Big Lottery Fund. By sharing stories in groups or one to one sessions, Reading Friends empowers and engages older people who are vulnerable and isolated, including people with dementia and carers. An evaluation of the test phase showed that a staggering 88% of participants appreciated the increased social contact from reading inspired conversations. The same percentage felt they added purpose to their week. Building on the initial success of the programme, The Reading Agency plans to expand Reading Friends for national rollout in 2020.

Previous research has found that reading groups can provide a route out of social isolation for young mothers, who are particularly susceptible to loneliness, with many saying reading helps to foster conversation. In addition, 95% of people who are blind or partially sighted read at least once a week to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

As well as revealing how reading can be used as an intervention for loneliness, the report explores how reading can benefit wellbeing and mental health, by regulating mood, exercising the brain, and providing an effective form of support for depression, anxiety and anger issues—for example, through self-help books. The report recommends that the NHS should encourage Clinical Commissioning Groups to invest more in book-based interventions as part of its social prescribing strategy and fund the provision of book based therapies in libraries across the country. Social mobility can also be positively influenced through reading; it breeds important life skills, which translate into greater opportunities in life. The report suggests that, in order to build a more productive, creative and fairer society, access to reading needs to be made universal and common for all.

Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency said: ‘Demos’s predictions for 2030 offer a desperately concerning outlook. If we don’t start to tackle issues of loneliness, mental health and social mobility now, then we will continue to put pressure on our vital workforces such as the care sector and the NHS. The forecasts for the loneliness epidemic are particularly shocking, but reading can be part of the solution: as this report demonstrates, it is not only an essential life skill but has huge power to bring people together to combat loneliness among all age groups. Through reading-based national interventions, we can futureproof our society, and ultimately use reading to help protect younger generations at risk of rising levels of loneliness. We have already seen through our Reading Friends programme that social reading can have profound impact on older people who are often the most vulnerable in society. We hope these benefits will eventually be opened up to everyone.’

Access the report