A consultation on whether, and if so, how, practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be regulated was launched today by the Department of Health.
At present, there is no statutory regulation of practitioners who offer acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine in the UK.
The consultation will seek views on whether a regulatory system should be established to govern the practice of these complementary and alternative therapies. The three Health Ministers for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed that this consultation should be UK-wide.
Once the consultation responses have been considered, a decision will be made on whether or not to move towards statutory regulation of these professions. Any final decision will be based on an assessment of the likely risk of harm to patients and the public, and consideration as to whether this harm could be reduced or avoided by other means. These factors are all taken into account in the consultation as well as looking at alternatives to statutory regulation.
Ann Keen, Health Minister, 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.
"We very much want to hear people's views on the range of options set out in the consultation, so that we can give these complex issues proper consideration."
The consultation follows publication of a report from the Extending Professional Regulation (EPR) Working Group, published 16 July 2009, which considers the approach to the regulation of currently unregulated roles and alternatives to statutory regulation in the future.