The papers of the Foundation for Integrated Health, a charity headed by Prince Charles, and established in 1993 to promote greater collaboration between conventional and complementary health, have just been catalogued (ref no: SA/FIH) at the Library.
In 2000, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee concluded that further research into the efficacy of alternative medicines was required and called for a more coherent regulatory framework to ensure that practitioners were competent and well-trained. The report recommended that only well-regulated alternative therapies should be offered by the NHS (and then on GP referral only). Unlike conventional medicine, job titles are not legally protected for most of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) occupations, and historically, there has been little oversight of training and education.
Following the committee’s recommendations, the Foundation for Integrated Health established a programme to support CAM therapies to standardise practice. In a report to the Department of Health on the Foundation’s regulation programme, Prince Charles said:
“Like conventional medicine, complementary medicine is only safe if practised by a skilled, qualified practitioner and can be harmful in unskilled hands. The key component to increasing public confidence has to be effective regulation which includes mechanisms for redress for patients where necessary”
The Foundation received a £1m grant from the King’s Fund in 2000 to begin work on regulating alternative therapies. At the end of this five year programme, the FIH received funding from the Department of Health (£900,000) to continue its work. This money was distributed to participating therapy groups to help them establish codes of practice, disciplinary procedures, and accredited educational and training standards.
The Foundation closed in 2010 amid controversy, and the records held in this collection relate solely to its programme regulating complementary and alternative therapies, covering the period 1999 to 2009. The papers reveal the scale and difficulty of regulating the many disparate therapies that make up the CAM professions, which include the big names of alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, massage therapy and homeopathy, alongside other therapies, including: spiritual healing, bowen therapy, cranio-sacral therapy and shiatsu, to name a few.
Although sceptics would argue that the Foundation’s papers do not address the question of CAM’s efficacy, these papers do chart early steps towards more regulated practices. Wherever you sit on the alternative medicine debate, the FIH archive provides a valuable record of the activities of alternative health practitioners and attempts to standardize practice.
Author: Elena Carter, project archivist at the Wellcome Library.