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New laws for alternative medicines in UK

The UK government will regulate aromatherapy, homoeopathy and other complementary therapies in a scheme due later in 2008

The UK government will regulate aromatherapy, homoeopathy and other complementary therapies in a scheme due later in 2008.

The new Natural Healthcare Council will have the power to strike off illegal or incompetent practitioners and will set minimum standards for practitioners to ensure that therapists are properly qualified.

No laws presently monitor the industry, and anyone can register and practice as an acupuncturist, homoeopath, herbalist or other complementary therapist. The new scheme is initially voluntary, but the council will register only practitioners who are safe, have completed a recognised course, are insured and have signed up to codes of conduct.

Patients will be able to complain to the council about practitioners and the new body will be modelled on the General Medical Council and other similar statutory bodies.

Treatments covered by the scheme include aromatherapy, reflexology, massage, nutrition, shiatzu, reiki, naturopathy, yoga, homoeopathy, cranial osteopathy and the Alexander and Bowen techniques. Only mainstream alternative therapies such as traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture are to be the subject of statutory regulation.

The work of setting up the council has been funded by the Department of Health and it will follow the best-practice model set out by the department in its white paper on regulation, Trust, Assurance and Safety. 

The NHS spends GBP 50m a year on complementary therapies, which will be covered by the new council.

The alternative medicines market in the UK is worth approximately GBP 130m a year and is predicted to reach GBP 200m over the next four years.

7th January 2008

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