News & Archive
A tragedy that should have been avoided
Two years ago. herbalists warned the Health Minister in person that failing to put full, statutory regulation in place would inevitably lead to a tragedy. Without it, the public has no protection from untrained, bogus practitioners and dodgy herbal products.
Now a heart-breaking case may have proved them right.
The Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey has heard how civil servant Patricia Booth suffered cancer and her kidneys were "destroyed" after taking pills alleged to have been provided by a Chinese medicine shop. Prosecutors say they contained a banned ingredient called Aristolochia fangchi. This produces an acid that is toxic to the kidneys.
Mrs Booth remains seriously ill, is dependent on dialysis and hopes for a kidney transplant.
Yet in June 2008, herbalist Michael McIntyre and scientist Professor Michael Pittilo met with the then Health Minister Ben Bradshaw to advise him that statutory regulation of herbalists must go ahead as swiftly as possible in the interest of patient safety. They were presenting the recommendations of the Department of Health Steering Group on regulation of herbalists and acupuncturists that Professor Pittilo chaired.
Among the recommendations was a licensing system that would prevent dubious suppliers from operating – also providing controls over the herbs practitioners use.
McIntyre even warned the Minister that, without statutory regulation, contamination of Chinese medicines with Aristolochia could cause of injury or deaths in the UK – as it already had in Belgium.
He said today (12th February 2010):
"It beggars belief that they are content to place lives at risk because of its abject failure to provide statutory regulation of herbal medicine practitioners.
They promised regulation nearly ten years ago. They even announced a timetable which would have seen it happen in 2005. Instead, Ministers set up another Steering Group and another consultation.
It is time to stop talking and start acting."
The shop owner where it is alleged Mrs Booth obtained the medicine and a so-called "Chinese doctor" are on trial accused of possessing and supplying the medicine. They deny the charges.
Notes to editors:
- For more information, contact Michael McIntyre, email@example.com
- The European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association is an umbrella body which represents professional associations of practitioners offering variously western herbal medicine, Chinese herbal medicine, Ayurveda and traditional Tibetan medicine. The EHTPA is dedicated to the development of herbal/traditional medicine, preserving and enhancing the legal basis of practice across EU Members States and promoting best practice. More information about the EHTPA can be found at: www.ehtpa.eu
- In 2000, the respected House of Lords' Select Committee for Science and Technology published a report into complementary and alternative medicine that recommended the statutory regulation of practitioners of herbal medicine and acupuncture. The Government agreed that this regulation should go ahead as long ago as 2001 but nine years later the herbalists are still waiting a final decision and the public remain at risk from back street, bogus practitioners and misidentified and adulterated herbal products.
- Since the House of Lords' report, there have been three Department of Health Steering Groups looking at the issue of statutory regulation. All three reiterated the call for immediate statutory regulation. The most recent of these Steering Groups reported in June 2008. It was chaired by Professor Michael Pittilo, Vice-Chancellor of Robert Gordon University.
- There have also been two public consultations. The first, held in 2004 and published in 2005, found overwhelming support for statutory regulation. Following that, the Government published a timetable for its introduction which would have seen regulation in place by the end of 2005. The second consultation, which took place in the autumn of 2009, has yet to report.
- A recent Ipsos Mori Poll found that a quarter of the UK population use over the counter herbal medicines while millions of Britons visit herbal practitioners.
Join the demonstration 'Save Herbal Medicine' 1200 – 1600 hours,
Old Palace Yard, 3rd February 2010. All are welcome – click
here to view details about the 'mass lobby' (pdf)
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: 01684 291605
Save Our Herbs Campaign
- Briefing paper from EHTPA (pdf)
- Letter to practitioners (pdf)
- Herbal supporter (pdf)
- If you are a member of the public and wanting to respond to the Public
Consultation Document on the Statutory Regulation of Acupuncture, Herbal
Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Other Traditional Medicine
Systems practised in the UK here are some model answers which you may
find helpful, they will save you a lot of time!
Click here to view Easy Guide to Consultation Document (pdf)
Join the demonstration 'Save Herbal Medicine' 1200 – 1600 hours, Old Palace Yard, 2nd November 2009. All are welcome – click here to view details about the 'mass lobby' (pdf)
Press coverage by Daily Mail 26th October 2009 'Herbal Drug Crackdown: Millions face having to buy remedies on black market as Europe tightens the rules' (pdf)
PUBLIC CONSULTATION DOCUMENT EXTENDED CLOSING DATE DUE TO POSTAL STRIKE NOW 16TH NOVEMBER 2009
Fringe events at political party conferences examine the future of regulation
At this year's main political party conferences the Health Professions Council (HPC) is holding fringe meetings for the first time with fringe partners the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the General Medical Council (GMC), and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The top line question will be 'Is patient safety and quality an election priority?' where the future priorities for regulation will be debated with delegates. The fringe meetings will have health representatives from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties and the Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee to discuss their vision for the future of healthcare regulation in the UK. The meetings will be chaired by representatives from the King's Fund and our fringe partners will also have representatives speaking on the panel.
Effective healthcare regulation is essential for patient safety, high-quality care and professional and public confidence. It is constantly evolving to meet the demands of patients and service users, the public, the professions and politicians. Since the publication of the White Paper, Trust, Assurance and Safety: The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century, in 2007 there have been several significant developments; however, recent headlines on failings in patient care have brought regulation into the spotlight.
The HPC's Chief Executive, Marc Seale, and the HPC's Chair, Anna van der Gaag, will discuss the following: "The existing plans to extend statutory regulation to psychotherapists and counsellors and a range of healthcare scientists need to be completed in a reasonable timeframe, so that public protection can be increased.: "The possibility of regulating other healthcare occupations, assistants and others currently outside regulation such as traditional Chinese medicine practitioners has been debated for years. As a society we now need to make a clear and unambiguous decision on how to proceed. We strongly believe that statutory regulation is necessary for the protection of members of the public."
The first fringe meeting was held on 21 September 2009 at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Bournemouth (see photograph above) where Anna van der Gaag spoke on a panel with the Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, Sandra Gidley MP. Anna then presented the HPC's ideas on a panel with the Rt Hon Kevin Barron MP, Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on 29 September. The final fringe meeting will be held at the Conservative Party Conference on 7 October in Manchester, where Marc Seale will be presenting on a panel with Anne Milton MP, Conservative Shadow Health Minister.
On the 1st January 2009 there was a meeting of the UK Health Ministers regarding statutory regulation of herbal/traditional medicine, acupuncture and TCM
Ben Bradshaw, Minister of State at the Department of Health met with the Health Ministers of the Devolved Assembles and Scottish Government on 12/1/09. The subject of statutory regulation (SR) of herbal/traditional medicine, acupuncture and TCM came up.
The 4 Ministers decided that the consultation should go ahead as planned and that it should be published alongside the report from the Extending Professional Regulation Committee probably in February 09. The Extending Professional Regulation (EPF) Committee set up by the Department of Health (DH) is currently looking at the criteria that should apply to determine which health professions should be statutorily regulated. It seems that, as we are prescribing medicines for internal use and also often working solo, we are likely to qualify for SR according to EPR Committee draft criteria. For this reason, from our point of view, the joint publication may be no bad thing.
The DH expects a full postbag on this consultation which will be over the usual three month period. That will take the process through to June after which the DH has to publish its assessment of the responses and the Minister must finally come to a decision about whether SR will go ahead. The earliest we are likely to see this is September but it may well be the end of the year – November/December 2009.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has commissioned a survey of public attitudes to herbal medicine/TCM and this has just been published. Here below is the URL via which you can access the survey. The Ipsos MORI report shows that 77% of adults agree that it is important that herbal medicines are regulated. This figure rises to 87% among regular users of herbal medicines (defined as those who have used a herbal medicine within the last 2 years). This should also be seen in the context that the survey has found that 29% of British adults believe herbal medicines are currently regulated in the UK! Access via www.mhra.gov.uk/NewsCentre/Pressreleases/CON036071
Herbal/Traditional Medicine (brief overview) by Michael McIntyre.
This article was written for the Foundation of Integrated Healthcare Website and is included here for interest - click here to view (pdf)
On 18th November 2008 the EHTPA Chair was invited to participate in the
final Extending Professional Regulation Event in Newcastle on the Future
Direction of Professional Regulation. Read about the Extending Professional
Regulation documents and the report from the Chair, Michael Mcintyre on
the day’s work. Click
here to read report (pdf)
Click here to read delegate pack (pdf)
Click here to read delegate pack B (pdf)
A letter by HPC in support of our immediate statutory regulation was sent to the Department of Health on 5/11/2008. Click here to read
On the 12th June 2008 'The Steering Group Report for the regulation of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine' was presented to the DH Minister Ben Bradshaw.
On the 16th June 2008 The Steering Group, chaired by Professor Pittilo, held a press conference at the Kings Fund to inform on this document. Click here to view the document in the Statutory Regulation in the UK section.
On 12 May 2007, the EHTPA hosted a very successful Regulation Conference. Click here to see some of the speakers’ presentations.