Use of acupuncture in hospices and palliative care services in the UK
The aim of the present work was to evaluate the availability of acupuncture in UK hospices and specialist palliative care services and to identify any barriers to the use of acupuncture in these settings, to determine the characteristics of available acupuncture services and of practitioners providing acupuncture, and to determine awareness of the evidence base for the use of acupuncture in palliative care.
An online questionnaire with an invitation to participate was circulated by email to 263 hospices and specialist palliative care services in the UK.
A response rate of 54% was obtained. Acupuncture was provided by 59% of services that responded. In general, small numbers of patients receive acupuncture as part of their palliative care treatment as inpatients, day patients or outpatients. Most practitioners were regulated health professionals who had received a Western-style training in acupuncture and used a Western-style medical acupuncture approach. Where acupuncture was not available the commonest reason given was the lack of a suitable practitioner. Most agreed that if funding and a suitable practitioner were available, acupuncture would be a useful addition to their service. The level of awareness of specific types of evidence supporting the use of acupuncture in palliative care was low, but most respondents were aware that some evidence existed.
There is a need to increase training in acupuncture for healthcare professionals working in palliative care. There is also a need to raise awareness of the potential benefits to patients and the evidence base supporting the use of acupuncture in palliative care.