Jeni Worden MBChB MRCGP MFFom

Homeopathy was a branch of medicine that I knew very little about when I started my medical training in 1980.  It was mentioned briefly when I was studying to be a GP but I remained ignorant and sceptical of the whole subject of complementary medicine.  I became a partner in a GP practice in Dorset in 1991 and very quickly became pregnant with my first child, Liz, who was born in 1992.  George followed in 1993 and I started to look for an alternative medical career to add on to my half time General Practice.  By a sheer fluke, I found out about a course to train doctors and vets in homeopathy, run by doctors and vets, based in Oxford.

This course changed my life, as it not only gave me another career but also made me approach my conventional practice in a different way. I learnt how to listen to patients, a skill that my basic GP training had taught me but which NHS General Practice had then allowed me to forget.  It also gave me a safe and effective alternative for treating my patients on whom conventional medications no longer worked or were unsuitable for, or who simply wanted another option.Because homeopathy is safe when used alongside conventional medications and also does not reduce the effectiveness of such medications, it was an ideal therapy to use in my area which had one of the highest percentages of elderly patients of any GP practice in England. Many of my patients had complex health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis, which meant that it would not be safe for them to stop taking their conventional drugs. Homeopathy meant they had something else to try and, judging by the number of repeat prescriptions that I did, it worked!

My hours spent working in homeopathy outside of General Practice meant that after ten years as a GP partner, I had to make a choice, so I left my practice and worked in a number of different private complementary medicine clinics for two and a half years.  Realising that I missed the bustle of a GP practice more than I thought I would, I rejoined the NHS in 2003 as a salaried GP and now combine working as a conventional GP on two days a week with one day a week in my own private homeopathic practice.

I love the way that I can combine the two branches of medicine to treat my patients safely and effectively. Many of my patients now feel more like friends as I have learnt to talk less and listen more (although I have to keep practising that first bit!). Ok, so homeopathy cannot be used for everything, and if I feel a conventional approach would be the most effective, I will explain that to my patient. However, I now have a choice when it comes to helping my patients feel better, that I did not have when I first became a GP. That hopefully makes me a more sympathetic doctor and my patients happier.