Page last updated at 10:54 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 11:54 UK

Regulate unorthodox therapy call

Man receiving acupuncture
The government is already looking at the issue

Acupuncture, herbal medicines and other traditional treatments should be regulated in the UK "without delay", experts say.

The government-appointed steering group said patients were put at risk by the "incoherent" way the industry was run.

The report does not cover other forms of alternative therapy like homeopathy, but would affect 8,000 practitioners.

Ministers have already been looking at the issue and now plan to run a quick consultation on how to proceed.

But the group of experts expressed frustration changes were not happening immediately.

The current incoherent state of affairs is simply not sustainable
Professor Mike Pittilo, chairman of steering group

The issue was raised by a House of Lords report in 2000 and that has been followed by various consultations.

One of the key problems has been how to regulate treatments for which there is limited evidence of effectiveness.

But the experts, led by Professor Mike Pittilo, the vice chancellor of Aberdeen's Robert Gordon University, said unregulated treatments were putting patients at risk.

They said acupuncture had been known to cause kidney damage when the needles were inserted too deeply, while herbal medicines had been found contaminated with steroids.

Professor Pittilo said he wanted to see the public "safeguarded".

"The current incoherent state of affairs is simply not sustainable.

"Without statutory regulation, I believe vulnerable members of the public will be at continuing risk and the efforts of responsible and well-trained practitioners to follow high standards will be undermined."

The steering group was looking at everything from the use of garlic, ginseng and mushrooms in herbal medicine along with a range of traditional therapies such as ayurveda which combines diet, yoga, massage and herbal remedies.

It did not include homeopathy, aromatherapy or massages.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw said a three-month consultation would be run this summer along with negotiations with the devolved administrations before making a decision.

He said: "Patient safety is paramount and people should always seek their GP's advice to ensure that any other therapy does not conflict with any ongoing treatment."


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