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Objective The aim of this study was to explore similarities and differences in complementary therapy consultations offered in NHS primary care and private settings to contribute empirical evidence to the debate about integrative healthcare. Methods Seventeen interviews were conducted with therapists and clients with experience of NHS and private complementary therapy consultations. In addition, a homoeopath and an acupuncturist were observed delivering 22 consultations in private and NHS primary care premises. Interview data were analysed thematically, drawing on observational data to confirm or dispute identified themes. In a second order analysis, the content and timing of two pairs of matched consultations were analysed in-depth. Results Negligible differences were found between NHS and private consultations in interview or observation data. Where minimal variation was noted, in the NHS therapists experienced slightly more complex cases, some restrictions to equipment, noisier premises, slightly tighter boundaries with clients and some time restrictions. Therapists were aware of more differences than clients, who did not report variation in the quality of consultations due to consultation setting. Clients tended to prefer the clinic with the most accessible location, regardless of its NHS or private setting. Conclusion For those who experienced both types of settings little difference appeared to exist between complementary therapy consultations delivered in NHS primary care or private sectors. Future research exploring the complex relationships between practitioners and clients and the impact of shortened consultations on client satisfaction and perceptions of effectiveness would be valuable.

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Publication Date



Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages 339–346



Consultation; Acupuncture; Homoeopathy