Background Acupuncture has been provided in nurse-led group clinics in St Albans since 2008. It is funded by a commissioning group within the National Health Service, on a trial basis, for patients with knee osteoarthritis who would otherwise be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon.
Aim To evaluate the patients seen in the service’s first year of operation and their outcome up to the end of 2010.
Methods Service evaluation was made of patient data from the referral centre and the acupuncture clinics, including baseline characteristics, attendance data and Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP) symptom, function and well-being scores over at least 2 years.
Results 114 patients were offered acupuncture, of whom 90 patients were assessed in the acupuncture clinics. 41 of these were still attending after 1 year and 31 (34%) after 2 years. MYMOP scores showed clinically significant improvements at 1 month for pain (4.2 (SD 1.2) to 2.9 (SD 1.4)), stiffness (4.1 (SD 1.3) to 2.9 (SD 1.3)) and function (4.5 (SD 1.1) to 3.3 (SD 1.2)) which continued up to 2 years. Well-being scores did not change.
Conclusions This is the first evaluation of nurse-led group (multibed) acupuncture clinics for patients with knee osteoarthritis to include a 2 year follow-up. It shows the practicability of offering a low-cost acupuncture service as an alternative to knee surgery and the service’s success in providing long-term symptom relief in about a third of patients. Using realistic assumptions, the cost consequences for the local commissioning group are an estimated saving of £100 000 a year. Sensitivity analyses are presented using different assumptions.