The BBC recently reported a story about the success of trialling group appointments with GPs in the UK. The article said that both patients and GPs benefited. Patients enjoyed peer support and GPs said they did not need to repeat their advice.
Groups of up to 15 people suffering from the same condition shared appointments that could last up to two hours. And, doctors said that because there were not enough doctors and nurses in the UK this was one way to get waiting times down. This is because modern medicine struggles to help people with chronic, complex diseases such as diabetes, and instead seeks to support or manage their care rather than help them to reverse their condition. In turn, instead of helping people get better we now have a healthcare crisis, which for some conditions like obesity and diabetes could be considered an epidemic.
I can understand how group sessions might help patients meet people and share support, after all people suffering from chronic conditions can feel very alone. In fact the BBC report didn’t say that the group sessions helped anyone get better. And even the Patients Association said that the group consultations were “reassuring” because it helped people to realise that there were many more people like themselves, suffering like themselves, having the same challenges and concerns.
However, when it comes to chronic conditions such as those mentioned in the report: high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic back pain or asthma, what is needed is a personalised approach. An approach that uses the principles of functional medicine is the opposite of group therapy. It is patient centred and seeks, on an individual basis, to determine how and why their illness occurred and therefore how to address the root causes of the problem.
Functional medicine focusses on the individual and looks at the imbalances occurring in the body and how these have changed how well the body functions. It uses a science based approach that views the body as a whole, and realises how every system in the body interacts. It takes into account the circumstances that may have triggered or perpetuated the imbalances in each person, and seeks to correct them so that their body can heal itself.
By looking at the root causes rather than only the symptoms practitioners of functional medicine can address complex patterns of ill health . Since there can be many root causes for a chronic, complex condition each person with that condition may need different advice, rather than the one size fits all approach that is behind group therapy. By listening to each individual person, learning about their medical history, genetic factors, their diet and lifestyle and how well they sleep, or manage their stress, a practitioner that follows functional medicine principles is able to make small changes that can add up and even create huge improvements in chronic conditions.
Unfortunately as the strain on the NHS continues to grow it seems likely that as reported in the article, group sessions are likely to continue to grow in number over the next decade. NHS healthcare will be less and less geared to the individual as it struggles with the burden of ever increasing numbers of chronically ill people.
If you suffer with a chronic, complex condition and would like a more personalised approach, consider getting in touch with me, here. As a medical herbalist I use functional medicine principles, to help improve health.