In November 2000, the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology reported on complementary and alternative medicine and considered the public health policy needs and NHS provision of these treatments. In one of its many areas of consideration, the report considered the needs to provide public protection by regulating practitioners. It noted that those practices that could injure patients were either already statutorily regulated (chiropractic and osteopathy) or were soon to be (herbalism and acupuncture). The remaining largely placebo based therapies and those without a sound evidence base for their efficacy and robust regulatory systems (e.g. reiki, massage therapy, aromatherapy, yoga and homeopathy), suffered from having a large number of fragmented registration bodies with considerable diversity of standards. The House of Lords found this unacceptable and that "in the best interests of their patients such therapies must each strive to unite under a single voluntary regulatory body".
The House of Lords described the necessary features of a effective voluntary self-regulatory body. These included having a register of members, educational standards, a code of ethics and practice, a public complaints mechanism, and the capacity to represent the whole profession.
Following publication of the report, the Department of Health asked the The Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH), a not for profit organisation founded HRH The Prince of Wales, to facilitate the development of a federal 'umbrella' regulator for these therapies. The Foundation promotes the inclusion of non-evidence based alternative therapies into public healthcare in the UK. The process was funded by a Department of Health grant of £900,000 over a three-year period from 2005 to 2008.
On behalf of the FIH, Professor Dame Joan Higgins was asked to be Chair of a Federal Working Group which was to look into setting up what was to become the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. Therapies who participated in the Working Group were Alexander technique, aromatherapy, Bowen technique, cranial therapy, homeopathy, massage therapy, naturopathy, nutritional therapy, reflexology, reiki, shiatsu and yoga therapy. Other eligible therapies were aromatherapists, reflexologists and reiki practitioners, although these practices were not represented.
The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council and will be made up of four elements:
Members of the Council and the functional boards will be laypeople, appointed independently; each Profession Specific Board (one for each profession) will have a lay Chair and four registrants from the appropriate profession. Each Profession Specific Board will select one of its practitioner members to sit on the Practice Advisory Panel which will provide a pool of expertise to support the Council.
"How does a regulator decide what is good practice and what is charlatanry when none of it has peer-reviewed, scientific evidence that it works?" "It matters that Newsnight found homeopaths advising patients visiting malaria areas not to take anti-malarial drugs. And that patients are told not to give their children the MMR jab." Gives non-science new authority. Professor Michael Baum protested that "this is like licensing a witches' brew as a medicine so long as the batwings are sterile".