7 minute read

Integrating acupuncture into the ‘new normal’

Claire Diola

Member & ACMAC Coordinator: East Sussex


We are currently trying to support members to develop integrated projects. These projects could be partnerships between members and GP surgeries or pain clinics or charities. Hopefully such projects will provide greater access to acupuncture and, over time, help establish acupuncture as a standard therapy of choice in the UK.

The advice we have been given is that the cost savings of multibed clinics will be seen as a significant advantage. However, I have another reason for my interest in multibeds. Several years ago I accompanied my mother-in-law to a small hospital in the residential area in which she lives in Shanghai. I had already worked in two hospitals in Shanghai and one in Nanjing at this time, so I was used to crowded and multibed setting. Yet, this was different. Many of the patients knew each other and there was a real community feel. It struck me that multibeds can offer something extra: conversation and shared experience. They don't have to be seen simply as a cost-saving exercise. Therefore, I am pleased that Claire has agreed to write this article and to present at the conference in September.

I took on the role of coordinator for Association of Community and Multibed Acupuncture Clinics (ACMAC) as I believe strongly that someone’s financial position should not be a barrier to receiving acupuncture. The treatment we offer is so powerful in dealing with the conditions that affect so many in our society – conditions often so inadequately treated by conventional medicine, particularly now with waiting lists for services at unprecedented levels.

Covid has presented so many challenges to our communities up and down the country – in many cases I think the full mental health impact has not even yet been realised. The effect on individuals has varied enormously but it’s fair to say that many have found the idea of returning to life at the same pace they lived pre-Covid feels impossible and oftentimes overwhelming.

A new move to flexi-working and people's drive to find more worklife balance by reducing hours and travelling less, together with a desire to find more natural ways to manage stress, have undoubtedly been a recipe for many to find acupuncture.

It has also been a difficult time financially for a lot of people. Not only have we faced a global pandemic but we have also found ourselves in a period of social unrest. In addition, we are beginning to highlight the many ways the societies we live in are not equal and how the voices of the marginalised go unheard. On top of all this lies uncertainty over shortages and concerns about the escalating cost of living with many facing financial losses.

Whether these issues affect us directly or not it is undoubtedly an increasingly difficult environment to exist in. In short never has the need for community and healing been more urgent. It seems to me that we are being presented with an opportunity to work to make acupuncture more accessible, so more people can benefit from its capacity to heal after what has been such a traumatic and unprecedented moment in our history.

We as practitioners know how effective acupuncture can be when treating anxiety, depression, overwhelm, exhaustion, stress, pain, etc – plus newest of all, the increasing numbers of long Covid. To this we can add acupuncture’s recent reintroduction into the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guideline for chronic pain.

The multibed model is perfect for allowing patients to access the treatment they need as well as showcasing what a cost-effective treatment acupuncture can be for these common conditions. We can help those on low incomes, or those who may have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to long Covid and other complications, to access the number of treatments they need to recover and fully feel the benefits.

So I write this article to ask a question – surely we owe it to our communities to do what we can to ensure that there is acupuncture provision in every town, both private and community clinics?

Looking at the current provision on a map of the UK there are several areas with no affordable options for many miles. Can we pull together as a profession and see what we can do to change that? Can we work together in our regional groups to try and close those gaps?

I believe we have a real opportunity to play an active role in the country’s healing and to demonstrate the power of acupuncture. How amazing if the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ we create includes an accessible, affordable acupuncture clinic in every town, so everyone who could benefit from treatment can have access.

A thriving multibed can be as financially viable as private practice.

Practitioners can see three to four patients per hour depending on their preference, and if they work in teams they can share rental and equipment costs. And although some use multibed working as a stepping stone to private practice, I think more commonly practitioners do both, with perhaps one or two days a week being devoted to multibed work. That said, there are those who treat solely using this model as they prefer its efficiency and affordability for patients.

In terms of geographical location and pricing, ACMAC advocate the use of sliding scales with each clinic setting its own baseline payment – for guidance we suggest at least half the going rate for a private one-to-one treatment in that area. For example, where I work we charge from £20 to £35 and patients pay what they can afford on this scale.

With cases of Covid rising yet again at the time of writing, it seems to me that we must be focused on the essence of what it means to be an acupuncturist. For me that is to provide healing and share the gifts of our medicine with as many people as we can. I believe that expanding the community and affordable acupuncture network will allow us to do that.

At the same time, we ourselves as practitioners desire community and the support of our colleagues – something that working in teams at community clinics can also provide. The opportunity to discuss cases and share ideas, build working relationships and friendships is yet another healing aspect of working in this way. Not to mention working together to start looking at gathering outcomes data which can be collected in high volumes from a multibed and has the potential to uplift our whole profession.

Now is the time to come together, to help as many people in need as we can and to fix acupuncture’s rightful place at the centre of ‘new normal’ healthcare. In the words of Mother Theresa, ‘Together we can do great things’.

So if you’re interested in learning more about ACMAC and setting up a community or multibed acupuncture clinic in your area, why not join us for a FREE Introduction to ACMAC on Zoom on Wednesday 29 June at 12 noon.

To sign up visit acmac.net/events or email me, Claire Diola 〉 info@acmac.net

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