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Healing in a Hospital; Scientific Evidence that Spiritual Healing Improves Health

by Sandy Edwards(more info)

listed in healing, originally published in issue 246 - May 2018

Despite no sign of a natural healing ability, I trained to be a spiritual healer with a non-religious UK charity. Ten years later, I instigated probably the largest medical research trial of healing in the world. How?

Logo The Healing Trust

Upon qualifying as a spiritual healer with the National Federation of Spiritual Healers - now known as The Healing Trust - I applied for a Lottery grant to set up a voluntary healing group. Five years later, a lady arrived who told me that her hospital consultant had suggested that she visit us. He had sent others, she said, and he was happy with the results he had seen. I immediately wrote to the consultant, offering to give healing to his patients at the hospital, as a volunteer. He welcomed my proposal, and I started work alongside Dr Sukhdev Singh, at Good Hope Hospital, Birmingham, in 2007. I gave his gastroenterology outpatients a single 20-minute session of spiritual healing after their consultation with him. In those first months, he would see each patient again, directly after their healing session, and he was intrigued by what he saw. Although these patients were sceptical that healing could help them, many soon changed their minds and reported a range of positive responses, some of which were dramatic and long-lasting.

A few weeks after starting work at the hospital, I asked if I could audit patient responses, otherwise their feedback would be lost and forgotten. I set about devising a questionnaire, and ultimately gathered and collated the responses of 267 patients:

http://www.thehealingtrust.org.uk/research/hospital-audit-of-75-patients

http://www.thehealingtrust.org.uk/research/hospital-audit-of-192-patients

Results revealed significant improvements regarding pain, anxiety, vitality, sleep quality and relationships. Patients continued to benefit one week after the healing session and possibly longer but this was the extent of my study.

A few weeks after starting the audit, the National Lottery announced their offer of research funding. They had never offered research funding before, and said they never would again. Dr Singh brought together the necessary parties to apply. Against strong competition, we were successful and gained full funding for our two-year study.

The main points are: 

  1. Funded by the National Lottery (£205,000)
  2. The application for funding was supported by a hospital audit of gastroenterology outpatients http://www.thehealingtrust.org.uk/research/hospital-audit-of-75-patients/
  3. The trial was led by the University of Birmingham,  a member of the Russsell Group (the UK equivalent of USA's Ivy League) known for first-rate research;
  4. The methodology was approved by a team of scientists appointed by the Lottery
  5. With 200 patients, each receiving five healing sessions, this is probably the largest controlled clinical research trial of healing in the world.
  6. The two-year study involved 200 NHS hospital patients with longstanding illnesses:
    a)      Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects over 10% of the population
    b)      Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects over 0.5% of the population
  7. There is no medical cure for either condition
  8. IBS and IBD sufferers put an ongoing strain on NHS resources
  9. Every aspect of a patient’s life is affected by IBS or IBD symptoms which are highly embarrassing, unpredictable and painful
  10. These patients had been diagnosed between 1.5 and 10 years earlier
  11. 100 IBS patients and 100 IBD patients were recruited
  12. Each patient received five weekly healing sessions in addition to their conventional care
  13. Healing sessions were provided by members of The Healing Trust to ensure uniformity of method and professional standards
  14. The IBS and IBD groups were each split 50/50. One half began healing sessions immediately (Intervention Group). The other half waited for 12 weeks (Waiting List Group) before starting sessions so that comparisons could be made during this period.
  15. Each patient completed three different questionnaires at Week 0, 6, 12 and 24 to identify and measure changes.
  16. MYMOP quality of life questionnaire: Whether using score improvements, ‘effect size’ or statistics, the results were clinically significant for both IBS and IBD groups equally, at Weeks 6, 12 and 24. Lives were significantly improved and effects were long-lasting
  17. Disease-specific quality of life questionnaires : results were in keeping with MYMOP
  18. Disease-specific symptoms questionnaires:
    a)      IBS improvements were clinically determinable.
    b)      The IBD group comprised ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease. The ulcerative colitis group gained improvements but not significantly. Both Crohn’s groups outstripped the score associated with remission but the size of the group was too small (24 participants) to draw conclusions. 
  19. In general, gains were retained for 19 weeks after the final healing session. Benefits may have lasted longer but this was the extent of our study
  20. The results of the different questionnaires generally tallied with each other, thereby further confirming the validity of them all
  21. There was little or no change in score for the Waiting List Groups immediately prior to starting their healing sessions at Week 12, despite continuing with their usual conventional care
  22. After receiving healing sessions, the Waiting List Groups followed a similar pattern to the Intervention Groups, thereby reconfirming results
  23. People who received all five sessions benefited more than those who had fewer
  24. The benefits gained exceeded that which could be associated with placebo
  25. There were no side effects
  26. For the qualitative study, 22 of the participants were interviewed
    a)      Patients were highly sceptical that healing could help them
    b)      Comments supported the findings of the quantitative paper regarding improvements in quality of life and symptoms
    c)      Patients enjoyed the experience
    d)      Patients felt less anxious, more confident and more able to cope
  27. Subsequent discussions with patients revealed that they were not willing to have healing outside of the NHS

The primary goal of the research trial was to see if healing improved lives, and the main tool chosen to measure this was the MYMOP questionnaire. MYMOP is centred around the patient’s experience of life, not whether they have recovered from specific ailments. It aims to discover what is troubling a patient the most, and determine whether the treatment under investigation is bringing about improvements. Patients are asked to describe their two worst symptoms and then identify activities that are hindered by them. Patients give a score for each symptom and for each activity so that any changes can be measured. In our trial, we might expect bowel problems to be identified as the worst problem, but it could be something else entirely.

The group that received healing from the outset - the intervention group - gained a significant improvement for each of their two worst symptoms and also for activities at Week 6 (all at either p<0.001 or p=0.001). These significant gains were maintained to Week 12 (all at either p<0.001 or p=0.001) and to Week 24 (all at p<0.001 or p=0.001). The waiting list group had to wait 12 weeks before receiving healing so that comparisons could be made between those who received healing and those who did not. Once the waiting list people had received their healing sessions, they followed a similar pattern of improvement to the intervention group.

These excellent MYMOP results demonstrate that the research trial achieved its primary goal. It had established that adding healing sessions to conventional treatment improves the lives of patients with IBS and also the lives of patients with IBD.

MYMOP Scores; IBS and IBD

A one-point reduction in score denotes a clinically noticeable improvement. These figures include ‘Wellbeing’ scores; if the graph included only ‘Symptoms’ and ‘Activities’ it would reveal more dramatic improvements than are indicated here.

 

MYMOP Scores

 

The following research papers have been published in medical journals:

Main, quantitative paper:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187638201630422X

Secondary, qualitative paper:

https://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12906-015-0611-x

 

But not many people read research papers, so I have felt driven to write an easy-read book about it:

 

Amazon Cover Healing in a Hospital

Healing in a Hospital; Scientific Evidence that Spiritual Healing Improves Health

 

My additional interpretations of the research data explain why the results are actually more impressive than conveyed in the research papers.

With 200 citations, my book signposts a wealth of other research demonstrating that healing is beneficial for all kinds of conditions affecting the mind, body and/or emotions. This includes trials involving animals and plants, which dispel the myth that healing is only placebo.

Together, the compelling results demonstrate that healing has the potential to benefit anyone whether they are in pain, sick, stressed or depressed. Case studies add to the evidence.

The findings of our research trial suggest that substantial cost savings could be made by the NHS, the Government and by businesses through adding healing to mainstream healthcare.

“Spectacular research results and a very impressive book. Patients and clinicians should take this seriously.” Dr Michael Dixon LVO OBE FRCGP FRCC; Chair of Council, College of Medicine; Chair of NHS Alliance

“An excellent and important book.  Sandy Edwards' research is a major step toward a wider appreciation of this subject.”  Larry Dossey MD, Author of One Mind; How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters. Executive editor of Explore:  The Journal of Science and Healing

“Truly remarkable findings presented in an easy-read style. Stimulating and engrossing.” The Duchess of Rutland, Patron of NFSH/The Healing Trust 

Comments:

  1. Pauline Thomas said..

    Great that you have done it, some people get their identification from being ill, I have used healing for 40 years and always benefit from it, and would love it to be part of the NHS we can only pray and support you...thank you for doing this for everyone...


  2. Pamela Lyons said..

    Wonderful news! Thank you Sandy Edwards for your important book that brings this ancient practice of Spiritual Healing into the public and medical domain - showing that under strict research conditions, this practice works. The NHS could well benefit from embracing these findings and welcoming registered Spiritual Healers into hospitals, hospices and GP practices to not only save the NHS money, but to also help relieve pain and suffering. Thank you to the doctors and everyone who had the vision and belief to undertake this important research.


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About Sandy Edwards

Sandy Edwards, despite no sign of a natural healing ability, trained to be a spiritual healer with a non-religious UK charity. She therefore maintains that anyone can learn to give healing. Ten years later, she instigated probably the largest medical research trial of healing in the world. The excellent results are relevant to everyone.

Sandy has been a volunteer healer for over 20 years. As soon as she qualified in 2000, she gained a Lottery grant to set up a voluntary healing group in the midlands. This centre continues to serve the public every week. Now based in Dorset, she travels extensively with her husband. She may be contacted via  sandedwards@gmail.com

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