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Monday, November 1, 1999 Published at 06:09 GMT


'End alternative therapy free-for-all'

Alternative medicine is growing in popularity

Doctors' leaders have called for the regulation of alternative medicine to protect patients from potentially dangerous practices.

Alternative Health
The current "free-for-all", where inexperienced and unqualified people can practise complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), such as hypnotherapy and acupuncture, without any controls is "unacceptable", the British Medical Association said.

In evidence to the House of Lords' Science and Technology Committee, it said medical students should be given more information about alternative medicine.

"Both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education should include more information on complementary and alternative medicine since the public is seeking such information from doctors," it said.

The popularity of CAM has grown in recent years as patients dissatisfied with doctors and the NHS turn to other therapies.

Ethical code

An estimated 30% of people in the UK now use herbal remedies and there are more than 3,000 clinics prescribing Chinese therapies in the UK.

The BMA's Head of Health Policy, Vivienne Natheson: "We think it is very important to have proper training"
A recent survey found that people who used alternative remedies spent more than £15 a month on them, making it a lucrative business.

The BMA suggests that each type of therapy should have a regulating body keeping a register of competent practitioners, and operating an ethical code linked to "an effective disciplinary mechanism".

It also calls for a well-publicised and effective complaints procedure.

Its Head of Health Policy, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, said that the public needed practitioners who had undergone rigorous training.

She said: "We think it's very important there is proper training and that when a person goes to see a complementary therapist they know what sort of training they have had, and know they are bound by professional rules - because that gives them reassurance.

"Do you know that all acupuncturists know how important it is is use sterile needles?"

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