The Secretary of State for Health has made an announcement about regulation of herbal medicine practitioners. The issue of whether or not practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be statutorily regulated has been debated since the House of Lords Select Committee report on Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2000.
The Health Professions Council (HPC) has now been asked to establish a statutory register for practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines. The proposal is, following creation of this register, to make use of a derogation in European medicines legislation (Article 5 (1) of Directive 2001/83/EC) that allows national arrangements to permit those designated as “authorised healthcare professionals” to commission unlicensed medicines to meet the special needs of their patients.
Accordingly, a scheme would be created enabling registered practitioners to commission unlicensed herbal medicines to meet the special needs of their individual patients. Safeguards for the public would be provided by a combination of professional regulation and linked medicines regulation, for example, to safeguard manufacturing standards.
If practitioner regulation is in place for the purposes of creating an Article 5(1) scheme this also opens the way to reform Section 12 (1) of the Medicines Act 1968. Under Section 12 (1), practitioners may prepare unlicensed herbal medicines on their own premises for use following consultation with individual patients. It is intended to move to the position that only registered practitioners would be able to operate under Section 12 (1) after regulation of practitioners is in place.
A formal consultation exercise will take place on specific legislative proposals for establishing the register and proposed reforms of medicines legislation later in 2011.
Further information is published on the Department of Health's website:
Health press release: Proportionate health and social care worker regulation to protect the public