RCCM Milestones

Milestones on a 20 Year Road: 1983-2003

When they came together in 1983, the intention of the RCCM’s founders was to encourage and facilitate research into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and to ensure that the results were as widely disseminated as possible. This purpose was incorporated into the Trust objectives and remains our focus to this day.

As the first serious organisation of its type in the UK and among the first in the world, and given the absence at that time of supporting structures within CAM, the RCCM inevitably provided a range of services in order to meet its main objectives. For example, the RCCM has been active in education, publications, conferences and facilitating international co-ordination.

The following is a brief outline of what the RCCM has achieved in its pioneering work over the past 20 years.

1983 - 1993

During its first decade from 1983 to 1993, and with limited funds at its disposal, the RCCM worked to awaken a research consciousness within CAM and to arouse awareness within Government and the orthodox health professions of the need to devote resources to this area.

As just a few examples of its many activities and projects, the RCCM:

  • Supported, enabled, encouraged and published many research projects into such areas as homoeopathy and hayfever, the effects of herbalism, yoga and stress, acupressure and nausea, osteopathy and backpain, manipulation and microcirculation, acupuncture and migraine, and hypnosis and hyperventilation.
  • Organised a joint venture with the Medical Research Council and the University of Glasgow, to establish the first university Fellowship in the UK to explore CAM. The Fellow’s final report pressed for the establishment of departments for the study of CAM within medical schools.
  • Contracted Professor Michael Ginsburg to encourage and assist with the development of CAM research, the creation of research facilities within CAM training colleges, and an exploration of appropriate research methodologies.
  • Initiated and, with the British Library, published Complementary Medical Research, which for many years was the only English language journal devoted exclusively to research into CAM.
  • Organised a series of annual conferences on research methodology.
  • With the co-operation of its then President, organised conferences at the Royal Society of Medicine, some of which were attended by the Prince of Wales.


During the latter half of the 1990s and as a consequence of the rapidly growing public and professional interest in CAM, in which the RCCM had played an important role, our strategy changed.

Practitioner training and organisation became steadily more structured, CAM research was being incorporated as a part of the curricula of education establishments, and university and other relevant institutions had become interested in taking part in research projects.

The RCCM’s Trustees decided that their still limited financial resources would be better employed by withdrawing from direct sponsorship of research projects in order to focus more closely on education in research, on familiarising the orthodox health professions with CAM and the provision of research information.

Thus, during its second decade the RCCM:

  • Appointed Dr Catherine Zollman as Director of the RCCM’s Medical Education Service; established a register of GPs with an interest in CAM; organised a series of CAM research programmes mainly in the west of England; and helped develop a template for an undergraduate medical module in CAM.
  • With the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital produced the widely distributed Evidence Base for Complementary Medicine, which was used to evaluate services and support increased NHS provision of CAM.
  • Initiated the Centralised Information Service for Complementary Medicine (CISCOM) which has become the most comprehensive CAM database in the UK.
  • Initiated the CAM Researcher Network (CAMRN) with the objective of maximising the limited resources available to CAM researchers then and now.
  • Initiated First Rung research awards to encourage student researchers (sadly, closed for lack of financial support).
  • Joined the advisory panel of the Cochrane Collaboration project’s CAM sector.
  • Helped establish the European Forum for Collaborative Research in CAM; for five years chaired the EU Committee, COST Action B4 on Unconventional Medicine; and edited the final report.
  • Carried out on behalf of South Thames Regional Health Authority a large-scale and detailed study into the use of CAM by women with breast cancer.
  • Gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on CAM through oral presentation, submission of papers and the production of follow-up papers requested by the Committee.

Current Activities

In its twentieth anniversary year the good works undertaken by the RCCM continue. Recent initiatives include:

  • Conducting a major three year project for the Department of Health to assess CAM interventions in NHS priority areas by detailed review and critical appraisal of published research, including the information held in CISCOM, which now contains over 85,000 citations of CAM research.
  • Creating a unique thesaurus of CAM terms, which forms a reference work in its own right and also enables reindexing of the CISCOM database to make retrieval of research information more comprehensive.
  • Developing the CAMRN web pages to provide a single source of information on CAM research and resources, events and conferences, books and book reviews, training and courses, job opportunities and interaction with fellow CAM researchers.
  • Investigating the underlying of principles of CAM in order to clarify issues relating to the integration of CAM and orthodox medicine.

With the continuing help and generosity of its supporters,  the RCCM’s Trustees confidently expect the next twenty years to be as positive as our first twenty years.

Last updated on7 April, 2011 - 15:15
Created on23 December, 2010 - 16:28