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Press Notice dated 28 November 2000


There must be changes in the regulation and information provision of complementary and alternative medicine accompanied by research in response to the growing use of such therapies in the UK. It should be made easy for the public to make informed choices on what works and does not work, and where to find reputable practitioners. This call is made today in a Report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The Report follows an Inquiry against the background of increasing public use of complementary medicine.

Lord Walton of Detchant, who chaired the fifteen month Inquiry, said:

    "It is difficult for members of the public to make informed choices about whether or how they should make use of complementary and alternative medicine. There are a large range of therapies involved, with different regulatory structures, training standards, and qualities of supporting evidence. We recommend that (a) the Department of Health and the NHS should take a lead in guiding the public (and health professionals) through the array of variable quality information available on CAM; (b) regulatory structures for many therapies might be tightened; and (c) more research must be conducted into the efficacy and mode of action of many CAM treatments."


There is a clear need for more effective guidance for the public as to what does or does not work in CAM. The obvious place for people in the UK to turn to for such advice is the NHS, and this responsibility has not yet been adequately fulfilled. Central resources should be directed either through the Government or in partnership with a neutral body to ensure that the public has access to balanced and fair advice on CAM.


The interests of the public will be best served by improved regulatory structures of many CAM professions. Those with fragmented regulatory structures must strive to come together under one voluntary self-regulating body. Acupuncture and herbal medicine should undergo statutory regulation, and the law against illegal or misleading labelling of herbal medicines should be rigorously enforced.


The NHS Research and Development Directorate and the Medical Research Council should, through a 10-year pump-priming funding invitiative, develop a small number of centres of excellence for conducting CAM research on appropriate disciplines. These centres of excellence could be based on the model pioneered by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the USA.

NHS provision

Only those CAM therapies which are statutorily regulated, or have a powerful mechanism of voluntary self-regulation, should be made available via the NHS. Provision of CAM on the NHS should continue to be through referral by GPs (or equivalent healthcare professionals in secondary or tertiary care).


The Report Complementary and Alternative Medicine followed a fifteen month Inquiry by a Sub-Committee of the Science and Technology Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Walton of Detchant. The Select Committee is chaired by Lord Winston (Professor Robert Winson). The others members of the Sub-Committee were: Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, Lord Colwyn, Lord Haskel, Lord Howie of Troon, Lord Perry of Walton, Lord Quirk, Lord Rea, Lord Smith of Clifton, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior and Lord Tombs.


Complementary and Alternative Medicine is the Sixth Report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in the Session 1999-2000. It is published as ISBN 0 10 483100 6, The Stationery Office, 15.50 (HL Paper 123). The text of the Report is available here

The supporting evidence is published in HL Paper 118 ISBN 010 411800 8, The Stationery Office 33.50, and in HL Paper 48, ISBN 010 404800 X, 22.40.

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