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Voluntary Self-regulation of Complementary Therapies

by Carole Preen(more info)

listed in clinical practice, originally published in issue 119 - January 2006

Oh no, not that subject again you might say! Well yes, I am afraid that it is coming closer and closer, and we really do have to face up to that fact. As secretary of the Aromatherapy Consortium, I am regularly asked by multi-disciplinary therapists about having to register with several different regulatory bodies, and what that is likely to cost them in order to practise their various therapies. This has been a concern for a number of years, and multi-disciplinary associations have sprung up to cater to these therapists. Some say this is a good thing, and others think that keeping things therapy-specific with aromatherapy-based journals and research committees serves the profession best.

For the past seven years the aromatherapy profession has been pursuing regulation; an enormous amount of work has been done, and we have been publicly congratulated for the progress made to-date. As you will have seen in the October edition of Positive Health, aromatherapy is currently only 12 months away from launching its regulatory body.

On September 12, 2005, I attended a Regulation Seminar hosted by the Prince of Wales' Foundation for Integrated Health, along with colleagues from ten other therapy groups. We have all been accepted onto the Foundation's Regulation Programme for the next three years and have been awarded a small grant of £4,545. Along with the Homeopaths and the Nutritionists, we are one of the most advanced groups and believed we had the future pretty much mapped out. However, all that may soon change!

Federal Body for Regulation

The Seminar focused on the changes in health-care regulation following the Shipman Inquiry. Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture are soon to become statutory regulated, which will make it illegal to practise those therapies without being on their register. They are waiting now for the outcome of the Foster Review which will make recommendations on regulation for non-medical health-care professions that will have a knock-on affect for everyone. With all these changes, the key feature is that single body registration is a thing of the past and we need to be looking at a possible federal-style regulator for those therapies which have demonstrated that they are ready for voluntary self-regulation. Other therapies can join this federal body when they become ready, and it could be modelled on the existing Health Professions Council (HPC) that regulates physiotherapists, paramedics, occupational therapists, etc.

The one main advantage of this structure would be for the multi-disciplinary therapists, as they could list themselves under various therapies but pay only one registration fee. There would be only one register for all of the complementary therapies. However, it would mean associations giving up their registers to this federal body, because it can only work if there is just the one register. The idea is that a federal-style system would also bring economies of scale, in that combined therapists will pay a much lower registration fee than if the therapy stood alone. For example, in 2004, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) regulated approximately 660,000 registrants, and the Health Profession's Council (HPC) regulated approximately 156,000 registrants. The relative size of these two regulators allows them to charge a considerably lower annual subscription fee than uni-profession regulators. Whereas HPC registrants pay an annual retention fee of £60, the General Chiropractic Council's registrants (GCC) pay £1,000. Another advantage would be branding potential for complementary therapists; the public would know what to recognize when employing the services of a complementary health care professional. There is one thing for certain, regulation is happening and it will affect all complementary health-care professionals no matter what you do and irrespective of whether you work full-time, part-time or even don't charge for your services. Regulation is all about protecting the public, so they can be assured of being safe in your hands. You will eventually have to register in some form or another, but it does look as though this federal-style system is favoured by this current government and the Department of Health. The scheme will be voluntary, which means you could practise outside of it without breaking the law, but the branding will make it very undesirable to do this. Patients and the NHS and possibly even private health-care providers like BUPA will not want to use or refer to a therapist who is not registered. You could liken it to using a plumber – you would check that he is Corgi registered first. Because there would be only one register, CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks would be done, reassuring patients and the NHS. The one body would also be responsible for disciplinary claims, ethics and accreditations of schools.

Where does this leave the Associations?

This is a good question, and one I am sure will be the main area of concern for those bodies. The report from the Foundation states that professional associations will be stronger within a federal-style system, but most of their functions will be taken away. They can still have memberships and support their members by promoting the therapy and becoming involved in research, and they may still be able to offer block insurance schemes. There is a lot to think about and you can read the slides from the seminar yourself by accessing it on the Foundation's website at

The consultation process for this was launched on December 1, 2005 so watch this space!


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About Carole Preen

Carole Preen FCHP FANM HonMIFA is a Fellow of the Association of Natural Medicine and the former Aromatherapy & Allied Practitioners' Association and has been a practitioner since 1994 and an educator since 1997. She is also an honorary lifetime member of the International Federation of Aromatherapists awarded for her contribution to the profession. As well as specializing in Aromatherapy and Anatomy, Carole also introduced Neuroskeletal Re-alignment Therapy to the UK. Carole is an specialist educator, and internal and external moderator working in both the private and FE sector and has level 4 qualifications in quality assurance. She is Director of Complementary Health Professionals and may be contacted on Tel: 0333 577 3340;
For further information about Neuroskeletal Re-alignment Therapy (NSRT) please view the website at with links to published articles and a Facebook page. The diploma course is accredited by Complementary Health Professionals through Natural Therapeutics. Training details and information on booking a treatment with me is available via Mob: 07455 195 515

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