This month’s Q&A is with Susan Evans, Chair of the Professional Recognition Working Group. Susan takes us through the work they have achieved so far and where they are hoping to go in the future.
Q: What are the aims and objectives of the Professional Recognition Working Group?
A: This is a new group with representation from both our members and specialists. We have listened to members, who want BAcC to achieve a higher profile for acupuncture, and a better understanding of the effectiveness of acupuncture amongst politicians, health professionals, and the public in general. Our aim is to gain the professional recognition that we feel all BAcC members deserve. Even before the pandemic we were exploring ways for better recognition for the high standards we offer to our patients. It then became very clear during the pandemic that the different governments within the UK saw in very different ways how we supported our patients with acute and chronic needs. This led to confusion within the varying administrations as well as for us as a professional body and ultimately frustration for our members. Our COVID team were really busy during the various lockdowns, deciphering the guidelines set by each of the devolved administrations.
Ideally, what we would like to achieve is to have parity with both the physios and osteopaths who have state regulation and were able to support their patients when at times we were not afforded the same authorisation. For any possible future lockdowns we would like to establish where we stand. We feel our PSA accreditation should have been enough to give us this parity and although it helped we still have more work to do to give us clarity of our position.
Q: How is the work going at the moment?
A: There are ups and downs as you would imagine. The latest NICE guideline on the management of chronic pain is one of the really positive factors we can use. The commissioning guideline recommends three groups to deliver acupuncture within the NHS. These are British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) and Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) (which were always going to be there) and BAcC members. This is fantastic news for our members and we are putting together some useful information so members can go forward to their local commissioning groups if they wish to be considered for this work. This is one good outcome from our Professional Standards Authority (PSA) accreditation.
In Wales and Scotland our PRWG members are in contact with members of the Sennedd and the Scottish Parliament to ask why in the last high level lockdowns they were asking our members to obtain referrals from state-regulated practitioners. We feel this was particularly unfair and would like to understand why this happened and prevent it from happening again.
Another of our aims is to reach out to make friends with interested allies. The work we did in conjunction with the RHCM and the formation of our COVID guidelines was a real start in working collaboratively.
We are contacting charities where we feel we can offer support for their members. With one such charity (Anxiety UK) we have already an established collaboration, which additionally contributes to research in that area.
We have had input into the new BAcC website as this is another area where we can help members gain recognition by using our research papers to our advantage. Ian Appleyard has been working on the new look for this section.
Our latest PSA accreditation flagged up that some of our members’ websites were not compliant with the Advertising Standards Agency, so getting this issue sorted will help our professional status.
We took part in a PSA consultation earlier this year and made them aware that they need to increase their level of visibility for the public and employers. If the PSA’s aim is to promote safety for the public and employers then visibility is important. We would encourage all our members to use the PSA logo on their websites and in literature as this will help to raise awareness of the accreditation scheme.
Q: What have you achieved so far?
A: We have been able to make some valuable connections, however it is very early days for the big goals we have and we feel we are starting to put out the feelers we need to meet the influencers we need.
Our connections across the administrations are increasing as we contact governments on all levels.
Q: What about statutory regulation?
A: Great question. This has been off the table for many years. We were given a mandate by government to prepare for statutory regulation (SR) just after the osteopaths and chiropractors. A change of government then removed the possibility of SR and we had no redress.
There was a difference of opinion at that time within our membership about whether or not SR was a good idea and a membership vote took us in the yes direction. If, at any time, regulation comes back on the table, we will definitely bring this back to the membership as again there will probably still be differing views on this subject. There are pros and cons to SR and the issue is not clear cut. For this reason we are putting our energies into improving regulation by the PSA, as this will be of more immediate benefit to members than re-opening the debate about SR.
The PSA set up the voluntary accreditation registers for bodies which do not have state regulation. We were one of the first bodies to be accepted through this system. There are now over 30 bodies regulated under this umbrella. It has been interesting forming relationships with other members of this register. Up until now this has mainly been a scheme overseeing our processes but the consultation this year brought a new plan of action (but also an increase of fees). We will watch this space and press the PSA to give us more for our money in the future.
As an accredited register we were invited to and have replied to a Department of Health consultation about changes within the Statutory Regulated bodies. We have asked them to recognise the Voluntary Accredited register programme more than they do at present.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: Our next big plan is to set up our All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)
This will bring together interested members from both the House of Lords and the House of Commons to help us gain recognition within government. If any members out there have contacts with either house who may be interested in joining the APPG, please pass on details to either myself or Jennifer Norton.
We are always very interested to hear from any BAcC member who may have contacts with people in influential positions or who have ideas how we could further progress our cause. Please contact either myself: firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jennifer Norton: email@example.com.