What is community acupuncture?
Community acupuncture is the provision of acupuncture to high standards of clinical effectiveness, safety and hygiene, at a lower cost than normal private practice. There are currently about 30 community clinics around the UK. Prices for community acupuncture vary, but are typically set at 35-50% of the local rate. At Love Community Acupuncture, you pay what you can afford, beginning at a rate of £15 per treatment (plus a 2.75% surcharge if you pay by card).
Some community acupuncture clinics are multibeds. These are large rooms which have several couches set out around the room, like a hospital ward; some community clinics use screens around each couch, but some do not. Love Community Acupuncture was a multibed in its first incarnation, but is now a private practice – patients see an acupuncturist for a full 45-minute appointment entirely in private, with no other people in the room, for as little as £15 per treatment compared with the local market rate of around £40.
Why do you do this when you could charge more?
Acupuncture was invented as a folk medicine 2,000 years ago in China, but I feel that in the West it has become an expensive private medicine. I have a strong belief in acupuncture’s ability to help particularly those people with complex chronic conditions that may not respond well to treatment with conventional medicine; in the UK, it remains a fact that people more likely to experience such complex, chronic conditions tend to be in lower income brackets, and by definition they are therefore excluded from accessing acupuncture. I set up Love Community Acupuncture to enable patients on lower incomes to have acupuncture.
There’s also a benefit to me personally: as a clinician, I see a wider variety of people and health conditions in community practice. For me personally, this is interesting and professionally satisfying – and clinically, it keeps me on my toes!
So what is the ‘spirit’ of community acupuncture?
Working for less than the market rate inevitably means there are some differences between community acupuncture and normal private acupuncture. There are no catches, but equally there are no frills! I guess you could say that the spirit of community acupuncture means mutual respect between you and me, regarding what’s on offer – and what isn’t.
What is on offer is an excellent standard of clinical effectiveness, safety and hygiene, together with a high level of personal, friendly, individual attention during your appointment. I absolutely do not cut corners on the essentials. I’m a member of the British Acupuncture Council and therefore the clinic runs to the extremely high professional and clinical standards set out by them, as well as the environmental hygiene standards of the City of York Council. So you get the same standard of acupuncture as in any private practice.
But to keep the community clinic at the low rates you enjoy, while still being sustainable for me, I don’t offer much in the way of extras! Mostly this means that I don’t offer extended personal attention outside of actual appointments. For instance, here are some of the things that aren’t on offer:
- I’m happy to have a chat with a new patient about how acupuncture might be able to help them, but I won’t be able to book an appointment for them or fill in the intake forms; a new patient needs to do this themselves online.
- I ask everyone to pay in advance of treatment, and there are no exceptions to that. I don’t offer credit or discounts. If your income fluctuates, you can vary the amount you pay from treatment to treatment – I strongly encourage you to do this, rather than stop coming for treatment.
- If you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment, I ask you to do this yourself online using the links in the reminder emails that my lovely automated system sends you; I don’t offer the service of doing this for you.
- I’m not able to answer queries regarding things like location, parking, bus routes, etc – my website has a lot of information to answer these queries, and I do expect people to look at the website to try to find answers before they get in touch. Sorry!
- I ask for honesty from my patients regarding their income as reflected in the amount they pay; anything less would be disrespectful of both me and other patients in need of affordable acupuncture that they can’t get elsewhere. If you come for treatment at the lowest rate and then tell me about your Jaguar and your Caribbean villa, I might detect a wee bit of disrespect!
- I have occasionally been a target for ‘acupuncture junkies’ who love acupuncture so much they try to get a double fix of it by coming to LCA at low cost and then to another practitioner as well, without telling me. I sympathise with loving acupuncture, but this is risky (overdose is rare but not unknown in acupuncture), and it’s definitely an abuse of the community acupuncture spirit. If I know someone is doing this, I will sign them off immediately.
The exception to this is if you’re ever concerned about any response you may have to treatment, in which case you absolutely MUST call me (07582 234578) – I’ll be very happy to respond and reassure you.
This probably sounds rather unfriendly and a bit pompous! I hope it doesn’t – it’s simply to set out what’s on offer and to protect the clinic from the kinds of misunderstandings and possible abuses of service that can arise sometimes. This benefits all my patients by keeping the clinic sustainable.
What might be the consequences of disrespecting the community acupuncture spirit?
I’m really happy to say it hasn’t happened very often, and when it does, it’s almost always the result of genuine misunderstanding that’s easily put right with a quick chat. In the very rare cases where I feel that somebody is disrespecting these boundaries, and a chat doesn’t stop it happening, I may choose to withdraw the offer of treatment at Love Community Acupuncture, and to make recommendations for other acupuncturists (to whom, in line with professional obligations of confidentiality, I would not disclose any of that patient’s personal or medical history).
With rare exceptions, I’m always ready to give somebody a second chance. But we’d need to agree some changes, to give us both renewed confidence and trust in each other. What those changes are, would depend on the individual circumstances of the case.
If you’d like to read this on paper, please download and print this leaflet on the spirit of community acupuncture.
If you have any queries, please just ask! Thanks for reading, and for understanding.