In the West, acupuncture is still most commonly practiced privately, with one patient seeing one practitioner for around 45 minutes to an hour per treatment, and usually being required to pay anything between £30 and £200, per treatment, depending on the reputation and location of the clinic (although some practitioners may offer concession rates).
Some people can afford this whenever they chose; plenty of people in the UK can afford to pay this once in a while; but lots of people will find it hard to pay this price regularly, and it is vital that you can have treatment frequently enough and for long enough to get better and stay better.
So, if one-to-one acupuncture is only affordable for some people, is there a way to provide acupuncture that is affordable for more people in our community? The answer is yes: “multibed” or “community” acupuncture clinics!
In a ‘multibed’ clinic, several people are treated together in one large room, hence the term.
Multibed clinics are a really new part of acupuncture provision in the West, appearing over the last 10 to 20 years. However, in the Far East it is normal to treat many people together and therefore many people feel is a more ‘authentic’ way to practice and receive acupuncture.
It is possible for acupuncturists to offer this type of service because acupuncture needles usually take 20-45 minutes to do their work, so the practitioner can place needles in one patient, leave them to relax into their treatment, and then move on to another patient.
By treating more than one patient each hour, a practitioner can significantly reduce the price of each treatment. Also, rent costs per patient can be much reduced, and these savings can be passed on to you, the patient.
Research has shown that patients being treated in multibed clinics report many positive experiences and very few negative. (Stone, 2006).
As well as the reduced cost, an extra benefit of multibed clinics is the community spirit that emerges when several people are treated together. Patients consistently report that they like the sense of togetherness and humanity they find there. Further to this, an energy field or ‘chi’ field is created when several people are treated together and this can enhance the power of one’s healing experience, just as practicing yoga or tai chi alongside several other people can make it seem to flow more easily and more powerfully.
The vast majority of patients feel very comfortable receiving acupuncture in this setting. Any good practitioner will let you know if he or she thinks you need one-to-one treatment for whatever reason. Look at the details of the clinics on the Find a clinic page and you will see what comfortable, safe and welcoming spaces multibed acupuncture clinics are.
For a small number of patients, receiving acupuncture treatment in a space with other people may feel unacceptable. If you are feeling uncomfortable, ask for time to talk this over with your practitioner, and if necessary you can talk about finding a suitable one-to-one practitioner to continue your treatment.
Different clinics use slightly different models – they have found out what works best for them and their patients. However, all clinics listed on the ACMAC site have agreed to offer acupuncture at around half the cost of a local ‘one-to-one’ treatment.
Many clinics use a sliding scale of charges, so you pay what you can afford each week, or those on low incomes pay less than those on higher incomes.
There may be a higher charge for the first appointment as this will often take longer and may be conducted in a private room. You can find more details about your local clinic on the Find a clinic page.
Multibed clinics reduce the cost of acupuncture treatments as described above. This is important because it means that more patients are able to access treatment frequently enough and for long enough to get better and stay better. If you only have a few treatments, or your treatments are too infrequent, the acupuncture may not build up the momentum to give you the healing you seek.
It is possible to offer more affordable acupuncture by treating people together in the same space. Obviously this may impact patients' privacy during treatment. Clinics are well aware of this and take steps to ensure high quality patient care: couches may be separated by screens for privacy; blankets and/or gowns will be used to preserve patients' dignity. It is rare to have to remove clothes, as the most-frequently used points are on the arms and legs. Trousers and sleeves can be rolled up, or a skirt moved to one side, for example. For this reason, please wear loose clothing when you attend your clinic.
It is the duty of your practitioner to ensure that you feel well cared for in the shared space. However, different patients have different needs, and the issue of privacy may be more of a concern for some patients than others.
Please talk to your practitioner or the clinic receptionist about how you will be treated before you agree to start your treatment. Many clinics have photos of their treatment rooms on their websites, so you can get an idea of what the space will be like before you visit. During your treatment, if you feel that you would like more privacy, either to talk about personal issues (most clinics will have some private talking space which you can use at any time) or during your treatment, please let your practitioner know and they will be happy to help.