UK: Better Regulation of Complementary Healthcare

900,000 extra funding to regulate complementary healthcare practitioners

A new drive to improve the regulation of complementary and alternative healthcare was unveiled today by Health Minister Lord Warner.

Firstly, funding totalling 900,000 will be made available to The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health over the next three years. This funding is to support the Foundation's work in developing robust systems of regulation for the main complementary healthcare professions.

The Department of Health recently consulted on proposals to regulate acupuncture and herbal medicine and it will publish its findings in early 2005. However, other practitioners of complementary healthcare, such as homeopathy, aromatherapy and reflexology, will not be covered by the new plans. The funding announced today will support the Foundation for Integrated Health in setting up effective voluntary self-regulation schemes for these other practitioners. The Foundation's initial focus will be to help establish a single regulatory body for each of the main complementary health professions.

Secondly, a new Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee will be set up by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). It will provide expert advice to Ministers and the MHRA on the safety and quality of herbal medicines. The Committee will look at both unlicensed medicines and those registered from October 2005 onwards under the new EU Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicines.

Health Minister, Lord Warner said:

"Thousands of people use complementary healthcare and it's important that patients are confident that these services are provided by qualified and competent practitioners. This extra funding will mean the Foundation can continue its work of supporting practitioners in self-regulation. This work, combined with a brand new committee of experts to advise on the safety and quality of herbal remedies, is another step towards improving the safety and quality standards in complementary medicine."

Michael Fox, Chief Executive of The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health said:

"The Foundation believes that complementary healthcare practitioners should be properly qualified, competent and insured. Our programme has achieved much in building the confidence of the complementary and conventional sectors over the past five years. We welcome the progress being made towards the introduction of statutory regulation for acupuncture and herbal medicine, and for voluntary
self-regulation of other complementary professions."


1. The new funding will made available for three years starting in 2005/06

2. The Department of Health consultation on the statutory regulation of herbal medicine and acupuncture practitioners closed in June 2004. The responses are currently being considered and an analysis of the responses and options for a new regulatory machine will be published in early 2005. The consultation document is available on the website

3. The new Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee will be set up as a freestanding committee under the Medicines Act 1968. This move follows a public consultation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on proposals to reform the structure of medicines advisory committees. The Advisory Board on the Registration of Homoeopathic Products will also keep its existing status as a freestanding Committee - meaning both committees will be able to submit advice direct to Government.

4. MHRA will consult in 2005 on the remit and responsibilities of the new Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee. The MHRA envisages that the membership of the Committee will encompass rigorous scientific expertise, knowledge of the main herbal traditions present in the UK and lay membership. The draft revised Code of Practice on Members Interests will apply to both Committees.

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