(last updated August 2020)
What has been happening in the complementary and alternative medicine sector
Recent years have seen a huge increase in and use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for a number of reasons:
- GPs have little time to devote to their patients
- conventional healthcare has become more impersonal
- patients are concerned about the increasing use of powerful drugs and health risks associated with hospitals such as MRSA
- many conditions such as asthma do not respond satisfactorily to conventional treatment
- patients are better informed and more willing to try alternative therapies
- complementary therapists are providing an increasingly professional service
- the medical profession has acknowledged the benefit to patients of providing both conventional and complementary treatment
- the number of complementary therapists has grown so that people can more easily access them
The five most common therapies are acupuncture osteopathy chiropractic herbalism and homeopathy. Currently only the osteopathic and chiropractic professions are regulated by law.
However many complementary therapists in all disciplines have been pushing for regulation to be introduced. Statutory regulation would help therapists to reassure both potential clients and medical practitioners that they have received training to a certain standard and that they comply with a code of practice. There are currently several voluntary registering bodies in the homeopathy sector including the Society of Homeopaths and the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths. In 2014 the Society of Homeopaths achieved accreditation by the Professional Standards Authority.
In 2010 a House of Commons report found that homeopathic treatment was no more effective than placebos and that the science it is based on is implausible. The report also recommended that the NHS should cease funding homeopathy. The negative light cast on the effectiveness of homeopathy by this report has apparently led to a reduction in demand for homeopathic treatment and this downward trend is likely to continue following the publication of a further exhaustive study in early 2015 by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council that found that there are no conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is an effective treatment. However during the early part of 2016 the Faculty of Homeopathy pointed out that hundreds of healthcare professionals in the UK (like doctors and vets) regularly use homeopathic remedies for patients who have received little benefit from conventional medicine.
Taking into account these recent developments in the profession you will have to decide whether:
- there is enough demand in your area to support your proposed homeopathy practice - bear in mind that the NHS is cutting back on spending on complementary therapies - and recently there have been calls for NHS funding of homeopathy to be withdrawn altogether. However if NHS support for homeopathy in your area is reduced but demand remains high you may find that this will have a positive impact on your business
- you will be able to compete against existing homeopaths medical practitioners that offer homeopathy and other complementary therapists in your area
Keeping up to date with developments
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date. There are very many professional associations that represent the interests of homeopaths. The largest of these are the Society of Homeopaths and the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths. Homeopaths that register with the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) also receive a free copy of the SoH publication Running a successful homeopathic practice and benefit from practical business support including workshops run by the Society.
Both of these associations require members to comply with a code of ethics and practice and to obtain certain recognised qualifications.
You can get a lot of useful information if you go to a trade show for the sector. You will be able to meet suppliers and plan your future stock buying. Visit the Exhibitions UK website for further information of forthcoming exhibitions.