(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the complementary and alternative medicine sector
Since the early 1990s there has been a significant increase in the 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
- many conditions such as allergies and 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, although nutritional therapy is also popular. Currently only certain professions are regulated by law and these include dietitians.
However, many complementary therapists in all disciplines have been pushing for regulation to be introduced. Statutory regulation would help therapists to reassure both potential patients and medical practitioners that they have received training to a certain standard and that they comply with a code of practice. Nutritional Therapy Education Commission (NTEC - previously the Nutritional Therapy Council), which upholds and maintains professional standards of nutritional therapy, launched a new national voluntary register for nutritional therapists in October 2006. In April 2008 the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) was established to maintain a voluntary register of qualified complementary and natural therapists - including nutritional therapists. The CNHC is supported by the Department of Health. All nutritional therapy practitioners already registered with the Council were offered a transfer to the CNHC, which took over responsibility for the register. You can find out more about registration on the CNHC website.
Although demand for nutritional therapy treatment appears to be reasonably strong, you will have to decide whether:
- there is enough demand in your area to support your proposed practice
- you will be able to compete against existing nutritional therapists and other dietary specialists, as well as 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 with developments.
The three main professional bodies are:
- the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT)
- the Nutritional Therapy Education Commission (NTEC)
- the Wholistic Nutritional Medicine Society (WNMS)
Other organisations that represent nutritional therapists are:
- the British Complementary Medicine Association (BCMA)
- the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT)
- the Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine (ICNM)
Many associations require members to comply with a code of conduct and to obtain certain recognised qualifications.
You will be able to obtain a lot of useful information if you go to a trade show for the nutritional therapy sector such as the Natural & Organic Products Europe. The Exhibitions.co.uk website includes comprehensive details of upcoming and past exhibitions and trade shows.