Call to use PBC to commission acupuncture

Regulatory body urges practices to take the lead on making savings after PCT efforts stall.

GPs should develop acupuncture schemes through practice-based commissioning (PBC) to help implement NICE's recent back pain recommendations, the British Acupuncture Council has said.

NICE guidance issued in June recommended that a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture should be offered as a treatment option to patients with low back pain.

Mike O'Farrell, chief executive of the British Acupuncture Council, said he was keen for individual GP practices to take a lead in developing referral schemes.

'PBC would be the way we would love it to go,' he said.

Mr O'Farrell said that he would like to see PCTs commissioning services directly, but that attempts to set up services were more likely to be successful if they were led by practices.

'PCTs are simply not able to go down to the level of detail that is necessary to see what the potential savings are at a practice level,' he said. 'This is not a criticism; it is just a fact.'

Mr O'Farrell believes GPs are more likely to be able to assess potential savings and put together a business case for funding through PBC. 'We will be willing to talk to as many GPs as we have to about the potential benefits to them,' he said.

The British Acupuncture Council has begun to look into the possible cost savings for individual practices.

'GPs and PCTs may not have had a chance to look at the NICE guidance yet, but there is a potential cost saving there,' he said. 'We have begun work with GP practices to identify, at a lower level, what those savings might represent to them.'

The council will be meeting a group of practice managers over the next month or so, he said.

Previous research by the council has shown that use of acupuncture on low back pain can lead to savings of up to 40 per cent in spending on anti-inflammatory drugs, he said.

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