In conversation with… Pia Huber, Chair of BAcC and Martin John, President of RCHM

In June, the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) and the Register of Chinese Medicine (RCHM) are coming together to celebrate the best in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine by jointly hosting the first ever UK Conference of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture and herbal medicine meet at the point of the practitioner. We’ve decided to ask Pia Huber, Chair of the BAcC Governing Board, and Martin John, President of the RCHM, what they are most looking forward to at this year’s joint conference. So let’s get started…

What can both memberships learn from each other during this year’s conference?
Pia: We can share the power, benefits and limits of each other‘s health therapy modality. We can also share the foundations and history of East Asian Medicine and of course meet in what we both share of this medicine such as nutrition, tuina and taiji.

People enjoying the 2023 ARRC Symposium & BAcC Annual Conference

Martin: There are of course already many joint members but equally there are many BAcC acupuncturists who may not have much experience of how herbal medicine can incorporate into practice and can offer benefits over and above what acupuncture alone can achieve. Similarly, practitioners who use other modalities alone or in combination can offer valuable insight into how they approach the health of their patients in a healthcare system that is massively diverse in its application. We can all learn something from one another which in turn enriches our profession and personal practice.

What makes the BAcC and the RCHM memberships so unique?

Pia: We are both steeped in tradition as well as embracing new research and old and new clinical experiences. We both have very high standards not only in our training, but also in retaining the skills in clearly set requirements for CPD. We have an amazing diversity of practitioners in acupuncture it could be TCM, five element, Japanese, Korean, the balance method, Mr Tung and Dr Tan, etc. And in herbal medicine, there are a variety of schools, all benefiting our patients.

Martin: Essentially, the commitment to high standards of training and practice is what unites the organisations and there are no other organisations in the UK that offer the same level off rigour in delivering regulation and promotion of the practice of Chinese medicine in the UK.

In what ways can we strengthen each other’s memberships?

Pia: Foremost by supporting our students and supporting our graduates. We want to help them to succeed in establishing themselves as practitioners and growing in their skills and expertise. It is incredibly helpful to meet our peers at CPD events such as the conference, but also in local and in mentoring groups to exchange and support each other.

Martin: One can never underestimate the value of collaboration and coming together with colleagues in the spirit of sharing. Working within local groups and collaborating with colleagues who may specialise or offer supportive treatments can only benefit patients and lead to a better public perception of our medicine.

BAcC and RCHM have worked closely for several years. What makes the BAcC and the RCHM ideal partners for collaborations like The UK Conference of Chinese Medicine 2024?
Pia: Many practitioners are members of both organisations. Of course in East Asian countries herbs and acupuncture are used alongside each other. Many herbalists use acupuncture and a considerable number of acupuncturists use herbs or at the very least provide nutritional information to their patients. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we had this wonderful collaboration between the RCHM and the BAcC in developing the Covid-19 clinical guidelines and advising members of both organisations.

Martin: When our profession comes together we can offer a much broader and inclusive event which is far more representative of Chinese medicine in the UK. Running a joint conference has other obvious financial cost saving benefits and allows members to benefit from a wider wealth of experience that the speakers bring this year.

What are you most excited to experience at this year’s conference?
Pia: As every year I very much look forward to meeting not only old friends amongst my colleagues, but also practitioners I have never met before and re-discovering the huge diversity of stories each one of us brings in on how they found East Asian Medicine or how East Asian Medicine found them. I am excited to learn new aspects and refresh what I have learnt before.

Martin: Naturally it’s always fantastic to hear dynamic and experienced speakers at any conference (and this year there is no shortage there) but the most nourishing thing at any conference is the time spent with friends and colleagues old and new. In an industry where isolation in practice can be a big issue, reconnecting with other practitioners is vital for the health of our patients, practices, and our own self care.

What can members gain from joint ventures between both the BAcC and RCHM?
Pia: We can learn to see East Asian Medicine in a new light and understand the foundations of this medicine better. We can learn to see the power and limits of the two modalities.

Martin: A stronger sense of community, a united voice in the promotion of the highest level of Chinese medicine practice in the UK, and a sense of collaboration that is essential if our profession is to thrive in the future

What intentions do the BAcC and RCHM have in growing the practice of Chinese medicine in the UK?
Pia: We want to continue to provide and ensure high standards of training and retention of the skills by ongoing CPD. Attracting new practitioners and providing support for students and graduates is also essential. The BAcC works tirelessly lobbying local and central governments and governing institutions to improve the conditions to practice. This is a lot of unsung and tedious work which is done in the background and sadly often an uphill struggle and often unsuccessful, but nonetheless bears small successes and triumphs.

Martin: The only way to grow and nourish the practice of Chinese medicine in the UK is to have a shared vision or intention for creating a profession that engages with regulatory bodies, works with existing health profession structures and presents a highly competent and professional face to a suspecting public. Holding fast to the highest standards of training and the promotion of safe, effective, ethical and sustainable practice is key to changing hearts and minds and creating a profession that can take a far greater role in the healthcare system of the UK.

Do you have any words of wisdom to share with students and graduates starting in this profession and attending a conference for the first time?
Pia: Be open to exploring the unknown and use the stimulation at the conference to deepen your skills subsequently by taking the stimuli back into your study room and your clinics.

Martin: Firstly, welcome to a wonderful family of professionals! Starting in practice can be daunting and it can often feel a lonely place to be, so attending conferences and CPD training is invaluable to help support you in your first few years of practice. By surrounding yourself with experienced practitioners one feels much more supported in this rich and challenging field of medicine.

What is your wish for anyone attending this year’s conference?
Pia: Simply enjoy the meeting and come away enriched and full of new enthusiasm.

Martin: Connect, be inspired, have fun and don’t be afraid of letting your hair down on the dance floor!

What is your wish or intention for the future of Chinese medicine in the UK?
Pia: The BAcC’s vision statement says that we would like to see acupuncture be an accepted and leading healthcare choice. BAcC members and RCHM members should be at the forefront of providing this service and ensure appropriate use or include herbal medicine in this provision. I would like to see East Asian Medicine to be promoted as a valid healthcare career. I would also like to see an increase in integrated projects where East Asian Medicine practitioners work in NHS facilities or with Western medicine doctors to provide valuable treatments to patients badly served or not served at all in the present dire state of the NHS.

People enjoying the 2023 ARRC Symposium & BAcC Annual Conference

Martin: A much more unified profession that continually holds itself to high standards and raises the profile and stature of our system of medicine. We shouldn’t be afraid of choosing a challenging path which takes work and commitment from both practitioners and PAs. I strongly believe that easier paths might seem enticing in the short term but actually threaten the stability of our profession in the long run.

And finally, what is your wish for your respective organisation for the future?
Pia: I wish and hope that we both grow in mutual support and collaboration.

Martin: The RCHM is the only regulatory body that focuses on the practice of Chinese herbal medicine and as such is unique not only in the UK but throughout the Western world. We continue to push way above our size and by building closer relationships with other key stakeholder organisations we can achieve a much larger reach with our messaging and professional standards. Establishing a firm, secure footing for our medicine should be part of all of our goals.

Thank you to Pia and Martin for their time. Both the BAcC and RCHM look forward to welcoming all delegates to the first ever UK Conference of Chinese Medicine 2024.

About The UK Conference of Chinese Medicine 2024
Join us on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 June for The UK Conference of Chinese Medicine 2024 at the Manchester Business School – All Saints Campus. Early bird rates available until Monday 6 May – book your tickets today!

By The British Acupuncture Council
April 2024