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Government Forum on the Statutory Regulation of Complementary Therapists


It had been talked about for so long. We were preparing a submission for the Dept of Health and Children in the hope that it would prompt some sort of action. The initial talks would be held in Autumn 2000 !!...Spring 2001 !!...Autumn 2001 nobody knew for sure, and we certainly did not know whether the work we were doing was relevant to such a Forum... and then the letter arrived. The Department of Health And Children were inviting representation from the Institute at an inaugural meeting to be held in ten days time. When we got over the shock of the rapidity with which a Government Department can move when it wants to, we gathered our forces in the shape of Maureen McLarnon and Lua McIlraith representing the Institute, Roisin Carroll representing the Institute Schools Of Reflexology, and Margaret Connolly double jobbing on our behalf as a F.I.C.T.A. representative.

The Forum was held in the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) in Lansdowne Rd and the day was facilitated for the Department of Health and Children by the IPA as they had already done this for the Allied Health Professionals in their talks regarding Statutory Regulation. Over 100 representatives attended the day long meeting and this number was way above their expectations.

The meeting opened with an address by Mr Frank Ahern Director of Personnel Management and Development Unit of the Department Of Health And Children (DOHC). He apologised for the short notice given to us but if the Forum was not convened now, it would have to be left to the autumn and he felt that in these circumstances especially in view of the numbers attending, his apology would be accepted. Before arriving at the venue today he had visions of addressing about six people because of the short notice, which gave rise to a somewhat knowing laugh from those of us present.

Anne O'Keefe from the I.P.A. was our facilitator for the day and proceeded to outline what was in store for us. I would like to compliment her on her expertise in dealing with all the questions which arose, and the admirable way in which she guided all the discussions.

Adrienne Harrington from the DOHC then outlined the type of model used for the discussions for Regulation with the Allied Health Professionals which had resulted in agreement on all fronts. The necessary legislation was now being prepared to allow this to be finalised. She proposed that we look at this model in detail and see if it could be adapted to suit our purposes. She went through all the elements of it and answered numerous relevant questions. As we went through the document with Adrienne it was heartening to see that the only areas that the Institute had yet to address was (a) Fitness to Practice and (b) a Complaints Procedure (for the public).

The breakdown of how the Regulatory Board would work was outlined. The creation of an office and staff would be funded by the Government but the running of such an office would have to be funded by the members and a yearly Registration fee of approx £100.00 is envisaged . This will give you a licence to work and to do so without gaining this registration would be considered an offence. According to the DOHC one can register with the Board without being a member of a reflexology organisation as this would be a constitutional right. As you can imagine there were numerous questions on this point alone.

Tim O'Sullivan from the IPA gave a short presentation on the research (through Brussels) he had done on what was happening in other European countries and the U.S. in respect of regulation. Most of those present were aware of this information and a lot more beside, but again Tim answered all queries put to him with smiling good humour.

The buzz at lunch time in the cafeteria and the sun drenched gardens, was the equivalent to numerous swarms of bees, as we tried to assimilate all that had been fired at us that morning. The vibes were positive as it appeared that we would have plenty of room for manoeuvre within the scope of the proposed format.

Back to work after lunch meant dividing into groups to discuss and formulate firstly the positive things about Statutory Regulation and secondly the Concerns and Issues which might arise out of this document. We were given about half an hour to agree in principle these issues and appoint a spokesperson to report on our findings. Well...six groups were represented each containing a wide variety of therapies, and the way these six spokespersons articulated the responses of each group was just incredible. The consensus reached so quickly by such a wide group of therapists to all aspects of this document was breathtaking. Group after group came up with identical suggestions give or take a few variations and each was soundly applauded for their efforts. As facilitator, Anne O'Keefe said she was truly amazed at the amount of progress towards the format for future negotiations that was achieved in such a short space of time. The amount of homework that we had created for the IPA and the DOHC by our responses was mind-blowing.

A comment made by one gentleman that the present state of the Health service was so appalling that our Minister should be referred to not as the Minister for Health but as the Minister of Sickness, heralded the arrival of Mr Michael Martin who reached the podium at exactly the appropriate phrase and which brought the house down as you can imagine. His short speech reiterated his commitment to the creation of a place within the area of medicine where people can be assured that they will be treated by properly trained and recognised Complementary and Alternative practitioners. After all he said, it is the consumers who dictate what they want and the consumers of our services are voting with their feet when they find that orthodox medicine is failing them. A continuing theme through the whole day was to find a way in which medical card holders can access our therapies and this was brought to the Ministers' attention.

A lot was said also on the fact that current models of medical research can not be used to explore how our therapies work and new ways of validating our achievements must be looked at. To this end I pointed out privately to the Minister that there are no funds available to us for research, as we do not fit the criteria any of the Government bodies seek when we look for funds. He said he was aware of this and promised to look into ways of releasing money for such purposes. However we all know politicians !!!!

It was a truly uplifting day. As Roisin commented she had been waiting for eighteen years for this to happen. We all felt as if at last progress was about to start in placing Complementary Therapies where they belong...alongside the currently recognised paramedical professions.

Lua McIlraith, Maureen McLarnon, Roisin Carroll and Margaret Connolly.

A copy of the discussion document can be ordered from Fionnuala Dooley at a cost of €2.50. See the Committee Members page in this website for her address, or to send an email.