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Tougher scrutiny for complementary medicine

By Nigel Praities

Providers of complementary medicine will have their quality assessed for the first time after the launch of a nationwide regulator.

The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council will monitor professional standards and operate a voluntary register for practitioners, with massage therapists and nutritional therapists able to sign up from today and others following later in the year.

Those practitioners meeting their entry criteria will be issued with a kitemark, that the body hopes will reassure consumers about the quality of the service they are provided with.

Practitioners will be audited by the regulator to ensure they have a certain level of competence in their discipline – including a recognised professional qualification or the equivalent – and will be struck off the register if they do not adhere to their code of conduct.

Maggie Dunn, co-chair of the CNHC, said she wanted to see GPs advising their patients to look for their ‘tick-box' kitemark before choosing a complementary therapist.

‘As the public recognise our tick it will become like a kite-mark or corgi-registered, or ABTA-bonded for the travel industry. People will recognise this is a sign of quality and they will be able to go on the website and see if practitioners are registered.

‘People will go out of business in the future if they are not registered with the CNHC,' she said.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health and a GP in Cullompton, Devon, welcomed the move.

'Millions of people every year use one or more complementary therapies, often alongside conventional treatment. Yet there has been nowhere that the public could check the qualifications and standards of most complementary healthcare practitioners. That is not good for patient safety,' he said.

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw, said: ‘Public safety is paramount. Registration, whether voluntary or statutory, is about protecting patients, and I am pleased to see this important milestone in voluntary registration. People should always seek their GP's advice to ensure that any other therapy they use does not conflict with orthodox treatment.'

A new regulator means tougher scrutiny for complementary therapists

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