Doubts and Dilemmas!

You may recall that Medical Herbalists have been recommended for Statutory Regulation by a Select Committee of the House of Lords and that the government is backtracking and considering ignoring that recommendation. This resulted in us all having to take valuable time to campaign for this much needed regulation – towards which we have all been paying an annual charge on top of our usual professional membership for the last several years. (Approx 20% a year on top of our membership, so that our colleagues could work with various other health and government bodies to implement the scheme.)

This week I received a communication from my professional body saying:

Urgent Call For Action

Reading the runes it seems likely that Andy Burnham (Secretary of State for Health) is close to making a decision on our regulation and is minded to do so before the election.

Two worrying matters have cropped up. Firstly, Mr. Burnham has received a petition against our regulation that purports to be signed by 2,500 “herbalists”. This is obviously bogus but may be used as an excuse for not awarding statutory regulation. Secondly, we understand that he is seriously considering opting for a so-called “light touch licensing scheme”. I have no doubt that this would spell catastrophe for us – as anything short of statutory regulation will threaten the livelihood of our suppliers, lower our status as a profession, inhibit developments in herbal education and severely dent our practices.

In the light of this we are asking that all members make one final push to fight for our case. We need to overwhelm Mr. Burnham with letters from real herbalists saying that we are committed to statutory regulation and that only statutory regulation will do. To this end we are asking that you please write to Mr. Burnham TODAY or at the latest by the beginning of next week and that you copy your letter to your MP.

So……. more work then. Why on earth can’t the government just make a decision (they did, in 2000!) and stick to it?! For the life of me, I cannot work out what there is to lose by giving us statutory regulation! It’s not money – the HPC seems confident it can incorporate us into their existing professions easily enough – and we’ve worked for the last few years, to make sure we fulfil their criteria. It’s not the public – regulation would protect them from charlatans who have not undertaken the years of training and commitment to high standards of practice that we have. It’s not the manufacturers of herbal supplies – once the new EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive comes into effect in the UK in 2011 many products will only be obtainable from Medical Herbalists as long as we get our statutory regulation, so it is in their interests for us to get it. The only people I can think of who would have cause to worry about us being regulated are any charlatans out there, who are practising as Medical Herbalists without appropriate qualifications or insurance. Or am I missing something?

Anyway, on top of all this…..

It is that time of year when our professional fees are due to our professional bodies, and insurances due for renewal. In my case, that’s £305 I have to find. Find being the operative word, as we are broke!

However, if we are not going to get our Statutory Regulation, I don’t see how I can continue to practice – it’d be like trying to run a surgery using a first aid kit. My patients are worth more than that. My profession is worth more than that. I am worth more than that.

So my dilemma – do I find the £305 or not? Will I just be wasting money I can ill afford? I wondered if other Medical Herbalists were having the same dilemma and which way they were leaning. When I asked, the response I received from one quarter was that if I was committed to being a Herbalist, I would renew.

I was incensed! IF I am committed? IF? I trained for 5 years, costing thousands of pounds (career development loan), required help from various friends and family to help babysit ( I was a single parent of toddlers!) so I could attend training. I then had to pass loads of exams complete with final clinical exam in London on a day when I was very ill and could barely think or speak and should have been in bed. Then I had to apply for membership to my professional body – and pay the fees each year. As with most herbalists, I work to supplement my business as it’s not a high earning profession but obviously this then means juggling two jobs. I mainly buy my herbal supplies out of my own pocket. I work hard to earn all my “Brownie points” for my Continuing Professional Development every year. I work hard at fostering good relations with the local medical profession and I give talks to them to promote my profession and educate them about it – and am making good progress here. I give my patients 100% of my attention and expertise and I work hard to keep my clinic open for them despite my commitments to my other job and my family.


Did I really spend the majority of my adult life on a vocation which I love, a calling not just a job, to be accused of not being sufficiently committed? Is having to scrabble every year for enough money for memberships and insurances – and yes, charges for Statutory Regulation too – not deemed commitment?

Do I really want to keep at this?

Honest answer – yes! It’s what I love – and I’m good at it! (Sorry if this is boasting, but I am. If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, then in all my past lives I would have been a healer, wise woman, doctor or somesuch – it’s a part of my very being.) I want to carry on doing what I do best. I want us to get the Regulation. I want to find the money. But what’s the government going to do – will it all be for nothing in the end?


  1. No -it won’t all be for nothing – not if I have anything to do with it!

  2. Thank you – I know really it won’t have been for nothing but that comment about being committed REALLY annoyed me! I paid my malpractice insurance today. Just the rest to do – see, it really wasn’t an option not to do it in the end.


  1. […] body, but rather than using the template suggested, I opted instead, to copy and paste my blog entry on the subject – just as it was, in its entirety. Andy Burnham has yet to respond, but my MP’s reply was: […]

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