Why open a community clinic in Nottingham?
One-to-one practitioners charge an hourly fee appropriate for a highly-trained clinician. Some people can afford to pay such a fee whenever they choose; plenty of people can afford to pay it once in awhile; but the vast majority find it hard or impossible to pay this price regularly. There are both class and elitist issues at work here, to say nothing of the medical issues: it is vital that a patient can have treatment frequently enough and for long enough to get better and stay better.
If a patient has to stop treatment prematurely, their condition may re-appear or worsen.So, if one-to-one acupuncture is only affordable for some people, is there a way to provide acupuncture that is affordable for more people in our community? The answer is yes: “multi-bed” or “community” acupuncture clinics.
How long have multi-bed clinics been around?
In the East patients have always been treated together (well, ‘ordinary’ patients. We can assume that the Emperor and his family and high-ranking officials would have been treated privately). In China, a doctor is recognised for his or her ability to treat a high number of patients efficiently and effectively. A doctor would be laughed out of the hospital if he could only treat 8 patients a day! It is simply impossible to treat 100 – 200 patients a day staying with each patient in their own private room. So community-style clinics appeared early on out of necessity.
How do multi-bed acupuncture clinics work?
By treating several people in a large room together (hence “multibed” clinic), rent overheads are vastly reduced. Acupuncture needles usually take between 20 minutes and 1 hour to do their work, which means that a practitioner can place needles in one patient, leave them to relax into their treatment, and then move on to another patient.
By treating more than one patient each hour, a practitioner can reduce the price of each treatment, but still be able to earn a good hourly rate. Acupuncturists, of all complementary therapists, are uniquely able to offer this service. We have a great opportunity to offer high quality treatment to people on average and lower incomes, begin to break the class barriers that are associated with complementary therapies, and still earn a living wage.
How will patients benefit from being treated in a multi-bed clinic?
There are two major benefits to being treated in a multi-bed clinic: affordable treatment, and the energetic field that occurs when several people are treated together. Affordable treatment multi-bed clinics create more affordable acupuncture as described above. This is very important because patients are better able to access treatments frequently enough and for long enough to get better and stay better. For example, in China a course of treatment will often involve the patient being treated every day or every other day, for 10 treatments; another course of treatment will then be started if necessary. This is almost unheard of in the West.
As practitioners we know how important it is for our patients to have treatment at the correct frequency and for the correct duration. Similarly if a patient with a chronic condition needs ongoing treatment, but can only afford six sessions, they cannot expect to receive the support they need. The ‘community’ aspect of multi-bed clinics An amazing community spirit emerges in multi-bed acupuncture clinics. Patients consistently report that they like the sense of togetherness and humanity they find there.
For some isolated patients, visiting a multibed clinic has an enjoyable and important social aspect to it. This challenges the idea that illness is something that tends to isolate people. Furthermore, patients with similar conditions may start to ‘network’ and support each other. Patients may make friends.
Are there drawbacks to multi-bed clinics from a patient’s perspective?
We offer treatment at reduced cost by treating several patients together at the same time. Obviously this comes at the cost of some reduction in privacy. Informed consent it very important. Patients will be advised on the workings of a multibed clinic before they start their treatment. If they can anticipate the limits to privacy, and that it is ok and desirable for them to make requests if they feel uncomfortable, the whole experience is more likely to flow smoothly.
Are there ethical or safe practice issues that come up in multi-bed practice?
The answer to this is ‘yes’. We take seriously the following issues:
Informed consent. We will explain how your treatment will be carried out, the limits to confidentiality and privacy in the clinic. You may request more privacy if you aren’t comfortable.
Confidentiality. A private talking space is available at all times if needed. Background music will be played to maintain a reasonable level of confidentiality.
Concealing notes. All notes are always concealed, so that one patient isn’t able to glance at another’s notes.
Removal of clothes. This will be handled with sensitivity. Most acupuncture points used will be on the arms and legs, so loose tops and trousers can just be rolled up. Occasionally stomach or back points may be used and gowns and blankets will be available.
Safe practice. The rules here are the same as for one-to-one clinics. All needles are individually sterilised and used only once. They will then be disposed of in authorised sharps bins.