UK PSYCHICS REPORT - 10 December 2002


Alternative medical practitioners will have to comply with tough new rules if they want to continue to treat patients, under government proposals announced yesterday. Ministers have outlined plans to tighten up the law on who can practise acupuncture and herbal medicine. The changes could come into effect as early as next year.
Under the proposals, acupuncturists, herbalist etc., would be required to register with a new regulatory body before they could practise.
Ministers say the measures, which are out for consultation, will help to protect patients.
An estimated one in five Britons regularly seek treatment from acupuncturists or herbal practitioners. At the moment, however, there are no rules on who can and cannot set themselves up as an acupuncturist or herbal medicine practitioner. The proposals to regulate the industry will reassure patients, Ministers stated.
Under the plans, a new Complementary and Alternative Medicine Council (CAM) will set out the minimum training requirements for acupuncturists and herbal practitioners. Only those who meet these requirements would be allowed to register with the council and call themselves an acupuncturist or herbal practitioner.
Anyone themselves an acupuncturist or herbal practitioner without registering could be fined.
The CAM would operate along the same lines as the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors. It would be able to ban rogue practitioners from practising.
These proposals were originally recommended by the House of Lords science and technology committee in November 2000.
"People are increasingly turning to complementary medicine," Health Minister John Hutton told the BBC.
"We estimate that there are over 4,000 practising acupuncturists and herbalists in the UK, none of whom currently have to adhere to professional standards of training.
"These proposals to regulate the industry will reassure patients and the public that herbal medicine and acupuncture practitioners are not only suitably qualified, but also competent and up-to-date with developments in practice."
Mike O' Farrell, chief executive of the British Acupuncture Council, said the organisation had for some time been pressing for statutory regulation.
"Today's launch is a starting point for further debate that we hope will achieve the most practical and effective solution for regulation," he said.
Simon Mills, chairman of the British Herbal Medicine Association, said: "We strongly approve of these developments."
The consultation process on the proposed changes will run for three months. Ministers hope to introduce new laws late next year.