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National Registration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Australia

1 May 2012

As you may know, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is currently an unregulated health profession in Australia. Sadly, what this means, is that anyone can hang a up a sign, call themselves an acupuncturist or herbalist and treat patients with no uniform minimum level of training or experience, no requirement for registration, and no formal avenue for customer complaints.

Of course that’s not to say that there aren’t a great number of highly skilled and well qualified practitioners out there. However, without a good understanding of the Chinese medicine industry and a number of hours for research, it is currently difficult for patients to know for sure who those practitioners are and how to find them.

1 July 2012 will see the implementation of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the Health Professions in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) industry. Although this is a bit of a mouthful, the concept is really quite simple and it is a great step forward for TCM.

It means that from next year, all acupuncturists, Chinese herbal medicine  practitioners and dispensers will fall under the same national registration scheme as doctors, dentists and physiotherapists. Accreditation standards will be uniform across the states and regulation will be more stringent. Practitioners will be required to have a minimum level of training prior to inclusion on the register. Qualifications will need to be maintained over time.

Another key benefit that will eventually follow (for me both in my capacity as a practitioner and as the owner of The Herb Booth) is that herbalists will have access to some key herbs that are currently banned (and that The Herb Booth is currently not permitted to supply). Such herbs can be dangerous if they are prescribed or dispensed inappropriately (and I agree that with a lack of regulation across the industry some herbs should be banned), but under National Registration, practitioners will be required to have a level of training that ensures they are handling the products with a suitable level of care.

As a qualified and experienced practitioner I couldn’t be more thrilled about the arrival of National Registration. I know that I am not alone in my thinking – it is great news for the industry, and particularly for the patient.