Complementary and alternative therapies

Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional treatments, whereas alternative therapies are used instead of conventional treatments.

The system of regulation and registration of complementary therapists in the UK is voluntary self-regulation. Whilst the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council has been set up with government support to establish and maintain a national register for practitioners, the NMC regulates the practice of nurses and midwives who practise complementary or alternative therapies.
Nurses and midwives practising complementary or alternative therapies are accountable through The Code: standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. In particular:

“You must ensure that the use of complementary or alternative therapies is safe and in the best interests of those in your care”.

Further requirements are set out in Standard 23 of the Standards for medicines management:

“Registrants must have successfully undertaken training and be competent to practise the administration of complementary and alternative therapies.”

The NMC does not have responsibility for the standards of other bodies that offer education and training in complementary and alternative therapies. Nurses and midwives are advised to seek guidance from the professional bodies or organisations representing the complementary practices when choosing to undertake a specific course in this area.

It is the responsibility of the nurse or midwife to judge whether the qualification awarded in a complementary therapy has brought them to a level of competence to use that skill for the people in their care and to work within their organisation’s local operating procedures, and governance framework.

Nurses and midwives need to ensure they are aware of the extent of insurance cover their membership organisation provides in relation to the use of complementary therapies in their practice and taken appropriate action. Nurses and midwives considering advertising services offering complementary or alternative therapies should be aware that the NMC considers overt reference to registration with the NMC unnecessary in any advertisement.

Further information

This information was updated in May 2012. 

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