The Department of Health has launched a consultation on whether practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be regulated to better protect patient safety.

Practitioners of alternative therapies are currently not governed by any regulating body, and the DH’s nationwide, public consultation will seek opinion on whether such a system should be put in place to bring their regulation in line with conventional therapies.

According to the DH, its final decision will be based on an assessment of the likely risk of harm to patients and the public, and whether this could be reduced or avoided by any means other than statutory regulation.

“Patient safety is paramount, whether people are accessing orthodox health service treatments or using alternative treatments, privately or through the NHS,” said Health Minister Ann Keen, and she added that the consultation will help “find the best and most appropriate ways of ensuring that those who choose to receive acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine can be reassured that those practitioners meet professional standards of care and safety”.

And Mike O’Farrell, Chief Executive of the British Acupuncture Council and Chair of the Chinese Medicine Working Group, said the move is “an important step in ensuring that the public understand the professional standards needed to work in these therapies and that they will be able to identify the professionals concerned”.