Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
Complementary or alternative therapies include acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage and osteopathy.
This page has information on how these therapies are used in the NHS and how you could train as a therapist.
Complementary or alternative therapies include
- acupuncture - inserting fine needles into the body
- aromatherapy - using natural oils
- chiropractic - manipulating joints
- homeopathy - using very small amounts of substances to cure symptoms
- clinical hypnotherapy - directing the imagination using verbal communication
- massage - manipulation of soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, etc)
- osteopathy - moving, stretching and massaging the muscles and joints
Complementary or alternative therapies are used within the NHS. For example
- acupuncture for pain relief in childbirth or for managing long term pain
- homeopathy in NHS homeopathic hospitals and clinics
- clinical hypnotherapy to help patients deal with habits, phobias, anxiety, panic attacks, fear, stress and for pain management and sleep problems
- massage and aromatherapy in palliative care (for people with life-threatening conditions)
- osteopathy and chiropractic for back pain
In some cases, nurses and doctors or other healthcare professionals offer complementary or alternative therapies. In other cases, the therapies are carried out by complementary or alternative therapists who are contracted to provide these by the NHS - often by a GP.
Therapists may practise more than one type of therapy. Some therapists work in hospitals, clinics or health centres. Others have their own practices which patients visit. Some therapists visit patients in their homes.
At present there is more scope for well-qualified CAM professionals to develop a private sector career that includes providing services to the NHS, than to become an NHS employee who specialises in providing these services.
Want to learn more?
- Find out more about the entry requirements, skills and training needed for the complementary therapies and medicine
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
An NHS employee trained to provide complementary or alternative therapy will usually work standard hours, which are likely to be around 37.5 a week. They may work some evenings or weekends. It isn't possible to indicate salaries that you might earn if you're a complementary therapist working with NHS patients. You should check details of any vacancies advertised.
Elsewhere, a therapist’s hours will depend on where they work. In private practice, the hours of work depend on client needs - they may work evenings and weekends to suit private clients.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
With experience, you could supervise the work of other therapists. You could then progress to a management position as, for example, head of complementary therapy services, where you may be responsible for the complementary or alternative therapy service in a hospital or area.
Some therapists set up their own clinics, alone or with other therapists.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the NHS values apply in your everyday work.
- Further information Expand / Collapse