BACKGROUND

In our society, we traditionally give the doctor responsibility for our health issues. We say, "This is my problem. Now it's your problem. Sort it!" However, in recent years we have moved towards sharing that responsibility by looking at what we can do for ourselves. This is evident in the High Street from the number of health shops around and almost everybody has heard of one complementary therapy or another.

Perhaps our change of attitude is because we have become aware of the side effects of tablet-taking or maybe because we know that some ailments are rooted in stress and anxiety - psoriasis, eczema and diabetes being just a few examples. A doctor can address the presenting problem but, if the underlying cause of it is not resolved, the ailment will recur or appear in a different guise. Complementary therapies used alongside mainstream healthcare make the healing experience truly holistic. The word holistic comes from the word holy, which itself comes from the word 'whole'. This means that the whole of the person - mind, body and spirit - is being brought into balance.

In recent years, so many people have taken advantage of complementary therapies that the Department of Health issued an information pack in June 2000 to Primary Care Groups and healthcare clinicians. This document suggests that therapists used by the National Health Service should belong to an organisation that has national standards and qualifications, a minimum training period, a Code of Conduct for practitioners and disciplinary procedures. The Healing Trust conforms entirely with these requirements, which means that hospitals and doctors' surgeries can use our healers with confidence.

The National Health Service funded research at Aberdeen University that showed the effectiveness of spiritual healing in restricted neck movement. The healer involved was a member of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers (now known as The Healing Trust). Not only was neck movement significantly improved, but also general physical function, energy and vitality. The principles of healing remain the same whatever the ailment and more research is always useful. Ideally, research involves a control group of patients who are being given placebos rather than the real thing but, clearly, this cannot be done with healing. However, this same limitation applies to physiotherapy, which is nevertheless used in mainstream healthcare, so there seems to be every possibility that healing could follow the same acceptance route.