Monday, November 02, 2009

Dear ***********,

The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) received £900,000 of state funding in order to set up as a voluntary regulatory body for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Their initial 2009 target for membership was 10,000. This was later reduced to 4,000. As it currently stands the Council have attracted little more than a quarter of this (1,029).
It seems that there is a deep philosophical conflict here. The main goal of the CNHC is to create a sense of respectability and legitimacy for alternative medicine. However this can only be achieved if the organisation puts in place a code of conduct that emphasises a level of honesty and openness about its medical claims, and the adoption of disciplinary procedures for practitioners guilty of misconduct.

Much of complementary and alternative medicine not only lacks an evidence base showing efficacy, but has a large body of evidence demonstrating a lack of efficacy. Practitioners are therefore unlikely to sign up to a a code of conduct that may forbid making unproven claims, facing up to the evidence that their treatments are ineffective, or encouraging patients to cease conventional treatments (there is a strong belief in CAM that conventional medicine is damaging). This seems to be borne out by the CNHC's figures, and it is no accident that the organisation has been most popular with massage therapists, a field that makes much more modest claims than chiropractors and acupuncturists.

It's also worth comparing CNHC to organisations such as the British Chiropractic Association. It too offers a veneer of respectability, but its code of practice chiefly concerns not bringing the BCA itself into disrepute; as this is the case, one must ask what the BCA is actualy for, and what it offers its members beyond the use of a logo.

I am writing to ask for some kind of assurance that, should the CNHC fail to meet their targets this year, it will be considered a sign that there is no market for a self-regulatory body for CAM, and that they will not be in a position to receive further funding.

Yours sincerely,



  1. Can't wait to see the reply!

  2. I would suggest you visit the website of the General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies. This regulator was set up by the groups which considered (and have been proved correct) that the CNHC would not work. It did not require any external funding, has attracted more than 7000 practitioners and is supported by the lead bodies of major therapies. Practitioners of complementary medicine want regulation…they just don’t want CNHC.

  3. It looks as if the DH are quite happy to go on funding the CNHC even though their progress has been abysmal.


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