RCCM Strategy

RCCM's strategy for the next five years

A strategic plan 2014-2018

As the burden of complex chronic disease increases more people are turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and need guidance in making their healthcare choices.    

The Research Council for Complementary Medicine is a charity which, since, 1983 has focused on developing and promoting research into good quality evidence. We have worked strategically with key bodies such as The Kings Fund, Department of Health, NHS library for Health-CAM specialist Library, The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, and CAMSTRAND (Heads of CAM in UK Universities) and the International Society of Complementary Medicine Research (ISCMR)

Mission statement

The RCCM provides strategic direction to promote the development of high quality research and evidence in the UK into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The goal is to prevent disease and disability and improve health by widening the availability and access to safe and effective CAM therapies, within the NHS.

The RCCM provides ‘thought’ leadership, develops research networks and partnerships in order to raise the profile of CAM research and develop skilled CAM researchers. It also seeks to advance and disseminate the evidence on CAM to practitioners, the NHS, government and the public by providing an unbiased voice on CAM safety and efficacy.

RCCM – bridging the gap between evidence and practice

The RCCM has wide support for its continuing role in promoting high quality research into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the UK. This was clearly demonstrated by the 231 practitioners and academics in the CAM research field who responded to the RCCM survey in 2008 (Appendix 1). The RCCM has a track record spanning more than 25 years of supporting and facilitating the growth of CAM research (see Appendix 2 for an overview of our achievements, also RCCM Milestones).

CAM is used by at least a quarter of the population of the UK (1,2). It is absolutely vital that the public and the medical establishment should have access to good quality research data to ensure transparency of the potential benefits and limitations of these diverse range of therapies. In the USA and Australia, substantial government funding has been allocated to CAM research funding councils - National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the USA and National Institute for Complementary Medicine in Australia. These bodies act to facilitate, and oversee the development of high quality CAM research. The UK government, through the Department of Health, recognises the potential benefits of CAM for improving public health, and the possible benefits of integrated care, helping those with long-term conditions. This has resulted in supporting herbal medicine, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine professions towards statutory regulation as well as other therapies through a voluntary regulatory process by the setting up of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. It has not, however, established a CAM research funding council, nor does it currently provide any research funding specifically for CAM research.

As Trustees of the RCCM, we believe that the continual increase in usage and interest in complementary medicine and the positive benefit it can bring to patients necessitates more research evidence and better dissemination of the knowledge that is already available.  On the basis of 25 years of experience, our vibrant CAM research network and the responses to our recent consultative survey (Appendix 1), we have developed a new strategy for the next four years to enhance the availability of information on safe and effective CAM therapies for public health.


1. Developing the RCCM’s current role to:

  • maintain and develop the CAMRN researcher network, (currently over 500 members nationally and internationally), and disseminating CAM related research news to the network by email;
  • promote the development of research capacity within CAM using existing doctoral, post doctoral and research programme grant;
  • provide a focus for CAM research evidence which is unbiased and objective with respect to the therapy;
  • facilitate practice research to build up the evidence base for CAM;
  • support the development of the CAM Library (CAM-LIS) as a physical and electronic resource for practitioners, at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.

2. Extending the role of RCCM to reflect the expansion in CAM evidence to:

  • map the CAM research being carried out in UK universities, by creating a research register and publishing this information and appropriate links on the RCCM website;
  • publicise the evidence-base for CAM in order to improve availability, access and uptake;
  • draw on the evidence from both quantitative and qualitative research to facilitate appropriate CAM integration in the NHS;
  • work in partnership with the NHS National Library for Health CAM Specialist library to synthesise and disseminate existing evidence to the public and the NHS;
  • partner with professional organisations to translate research into clinical practice by facilitating the use of evidence by practitioners;
  • lobby government and charities for CAM research funding.

(See Appendix 1 which supports these aims)

RCCM Objectives

1. To develop the current information service and network

This comprises the information, communication and fund-raising activities of the RCCM. In our 2008 survey, this was identified as an important resource by both university researchers and professionals working in conventional care. For example, the importance of maintaining and developing the CAMRN network was rated as being very important by 87 % of the respondents to the RCCM 2008 survey (Appendix 1). The RCCM is currently run at low cost and the trustees claim no remuneration or expenses for their work or travel. The thriving CAMRN network requires increasing input from the part-time network administrator and additional support is required to maintain the website, responding to enquiries and other work with partners and the media. All activities require an increase in paid staff to carry out the remaining objectives.

2To create and maintain a research register of complementary medicine research in the UK

Sixty percent of responders to the RCCM 2008 survey (Appendix 1) are currently engaged in CAM research, and nearly two thirds of these are working in UK Universities.  Seventy-nine percent felt that developing a CAM research register was of importance.  The RCCM is currently involved in a more detailed mapping exercise of UK postgraduate CAM research – an activity that was promoted by the Heads of CAM in UK Universities (CAMSTRAND) at there 2008 meeting and is fully supported by survey respondents. It is envisaged that this activity will require yearly updating and will provide a useful register of academic CAM research currently being undertaken in UK universities.  Responders to the RCCM survey 2008 were in full support of this RCCM initiative (Appendix 1).  This information will be made available on the RCCM website and updated as required and will provide opportunities for cross- university collaborative working.

3. To provide a co-ordinating research role through work with CAM professional bodies

The RCCM will form strategic research links with CAM professional bodies. By providing an unbiased voice and working with each CAM profession it will help to identify CAM research priorities and dissemination opportunities. The RCCM will be in a position to have an overview on the evidence gaps, strengths of individual therapies and the potential for therapeutic benefit for various conditions. This will add to the information source on the RCCM website by providing an evidence for practitioners, NHS, government and public.

4. To attract funding in order to identify and map the gaps in knowledge about the sizeable body of research evidence-base and  the safety, effectiveness and popularity of CAM therapies.

The objective is to identify clinical areas where evidence suggests benefit from a specific CAM modality. Our recent consultation with stakeholders identified that stress, chronic pain, depression, cancer and arthritis were the conditions for which they would be most likely to recommend CAM (Appendix 1).  Acupuncture was the most likely therapy to be recommended.  This information provides a platform to develop and promote accessible sources of evidence which should be explored in collaboration with our partners including the NHS National Library for Health Specialist CAM Library. This approach builds on the strengths the RCCM has in collaborative work developed over the years. 

Academic research includes qualitative as well as randomised controlled trials. The RCCM believes that evidence “digests” should also include patient-centred evidence, such as case reports, as this type of evidence is appropriate for complex interventions such as CAM and as identified by the document on Complex Interventions published by the UK’s Medical Research Council 3.  The RCCM will work with their partners and networks to ensure that evidence digests of both quantitative and qualitative research findings are written and widely publicised. Development work is also needed on how best to investigate and promote evidence in ways that are useful for everyday practice and fill the ‘so-called’ translational research gap.  The RCCM will also link with university academic departments and CAM professional bodies in the collection and dissemination of research being carried out by these organisations.

The RCCM is well placed to lead such a project because it builds on the current strengths of a growing researcher network and close links with NHS National Library for Health CAM Specialist library and CAM-research active universities.

CAM is thriving in the private sector but provision in the NHS is ad hoc. This project aims to improve equity of access to CAM for all sectors of society, widen patient choice, improve long term outcomes through lifestyle change, well-being and preventive health awareness, and potentially reduce NHS spending, given that CAM provides low technology approaches.

Subsequent phases will focus on lobbying government for research funding for CAM as serious long term investment in CAM is required to improve patient choice, reduce health inequalities and health care costs and increase self management skills, particularly for those with long term conditions.

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  1. Bishop  FL, Lewith GT. Who Uses CAM? A Narrative Review of Demographic Characteristics and Health Factors Associated with CAM Use.  Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Mar 13. downloads.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2010/102626.pdf
  2. Thomas K, Coleman P. Use of complementary or alternative medicine in a general population in Great Britain. Results from the National Omnibus survey. J Public Health (Oxf). 2004 Jun;26(2):152-7.
  3. Developing and evaluating complex interventions: the new Medical Research Council guidance. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769032/
Last updated on28 November, 2016 - 12:56
Created on23 December, 2010 - 16:55