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Sunday, 14 October, 2001, 00:19 GMT 01:19 UK
Acupuncturists police themselves
Acupuncturists would be registered in the same way as doctors are, under the plan
Acupuncturists would be registered in the same way as doctors are, under the plan
Acupuncturists have backed a plan which would help protect patients from rogue practitioners.

Ninety per cent of members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) voted for statutory regulation at their annual meeting.

Such a body would work in the same way that the General Medical Council regulates the medical profession.

The BAcC said it would provide greater levels of safety and education to acupuncture practice in the UK.


This will become the guarantee of safety and excellence for which patients have long asked

Mike O'Farrell, BAcC
Acupuncture recently got a publicity boost when the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Blair, was seen with what was believed to be an acupuncture needle in her ear.

Up to two million people have the therapy every year.

Mike O'Farrell, chief executive of the BAcC, said the new register would help patients: "This will become the guarantee of safety and excellence for which patients have long asked."

The introduction of a register would mean public would be able to choose a registered acupuncturist.

Currently, people have no way of checking the background of the acupuncturist they choose.

Osteopaths and chiropractors already have their own regulatory bodies.

Lords' recommendation

In a report on complementary and alternative medicine, published last November, the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee recommended statutory regulation.

This ballot, conducted by the Electoral Reform Services, was part of the preparations to moving to a statutorily regulated position.

John Wheeler of the BAcC told BBC News Online the council knew of between 5-6,000 acupuncture practitioners.

But he said there were another 3-4,000 who were practising without any links to the council.

He said: "Patients who go to those acupuncturists can risk anything ranging from ineffective practice to harm.

"'It's an invasive procedure, and inserting needles is always potentially dangerous. There is a risk of infection. There can also be problems with the disposal of needles."

The proposed regulatory body could work in the same way as the General Osteopathic Council and the General Chiropractic Council.

Existing practitioners would have the opportunity to join the register, if they had the right qualifications.

Then, entry would only be open to those graduating from recognised course.

There are currently nine colleges whose teaching is governed by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board.

The BAcC currently runs a voluntary regulatory system.

Backing

A spokesman for the British Medical Association (BMA) said: "We support statutory regulation of acupuncture and other alternative therapies."

The BMA has recommended NHS patients should have more access to acupuncture.

It called for nationwide guidelines on use of the treatment following research which suggested it was successful in easing back and dental pain, migraine, nausea and vomiting.

The Department of Health said it backed the plan for statutory regulation, and that it was in talks with the acupuncturist groups' representatives.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | Health
Cherie's 'alternative' cure
25 Jun 00 | Health
Doctors support acupuncture
26 Jun 00 | Health
Acupuncture: the facts
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