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Possible alternative therapies regulation

A consultation on whether practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be regulated has been launched

A consultation on whether, and if so, how, practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be regulated has been launched by the UK Department of Health (DH).

The consultation will seek views on whether a regulatory system should be established, and the three health ministers for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed that it should be UK-wide.

Once the consultation responses have been considered, a decision will be made on whether to move towards statutory regulation of these professions. Any decision will be based on an assessment of the likely risk of harm to patients and the public, and whether this harm could be reduced or avoided by other means. These factors will be taken into account in the consultation, as well as looking at alternatives to statutory regulation.

Health minister, Ann Keen, said: "Patient safety is paramount, whether people are accessing orthodox health service treatments or using alternative treatments, privately or through the NHS."

"This UK-wide consultation will help us find the best and most appropriate ways of ensuring that those who choose to receive acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine can be reassured that those practitioners meet professional standards of care and safety."

The consultation follows publication of a report from the Extending Professional Regulation (EPR) Working Group, on July 16, 2009, which considers the approach to the regulation of currently unregulated roles and alternatives to statutory regulation in the future.

Dr Michael Dixon, GP and medical director for the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, supported the initiative, saying: "There is good evidence for herbal medicine, acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the treatment of some conditions but, as in all healthcare, these therapies require properly trained practitioners."

Mike O'Farrell, chief executive of the British Acupuncture Council and chair of the Chinese Medicine Working Group, said: "The British Acupuncture Council is delighted that the recommendations of the Joint Working Group on Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine are now being included in the expanded consultation process."

"We believe that it is an important step in ensuring that the public understand the professional standards needed to work in these therapies and that they will be able to identify the professionals concerned. The British Acupuncture Council has long supported the proposals for statutory regulation of acupuncture and looks forward to the implementation of the original recommendation."

6th August 2009

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