DOCTORS in Dursley are to offer free complementary therapy sessions to patients in a pilot scheme thought to be a first in Gloucestershire.

Doctors at May Lane surgery are interested in finding out whether herbal remedies, massage, change of diet or relexology and Reiki may be beneficial to patients for whom orthodox medical treatments have not worked.

Dr Kathy Curtis-Hayward, a partner at May Lane surgery, said: "As a practice, we are constantly looking at ways to encourage people to be more in control of their health, to be aware of how they can better help themselves.

"This will be an extremely interesting pilot scheme."

She added: "We will be working closely with Ali Mapstone, a specialist in natural therapies, and asking selected patients if they would be interested in trying a different route to better health.

"Of course, we would not be suggesting it to anyone with a serious medical condition which would normally be successfully treated with orthodox medicine.

"But there are many complaints such as eczema, migraine and chronic fatigue for which we accept there are no instant cures.

"It could be that trying alternative therapies may be a solution."

Patients who agree to try the alternative route will have three one-hour sessions with therapist Ali Mapstone, a practising reflexologist, aromatherapist and master herbalist, from Wotton-under-Edge.

She has been practising complementary therapies for over 10 years and this is the first time she has been involved in a scheme with the NHS.

"I am so excited about this because I think it is a ground breaking scheme," said Mrs Mapstone.

"People can be very sceptical about complementary therapies, but I say just give it a try, have an open mind and lets see what it can do.

"I combine treatments and look at the whole package and at people's lifestyle. It is also important to work alongside conventional medicine - they are not an alternative to modern medicine."

Dr Curtis-Hayward added: "If the treatments are successful, patients can then choose to continue with the alternative regimes in the future, taking more control of their own health."