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Advising patients to check practitioners who are not regulated by law

Imagine this scenario. You are chatting to someone in your pharmacy about an ailment and out of the blue they say: “My friend had acupuncture — would you recommend it?” How would you respond? The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) knows, from its research with GPs, that when it comes to treatments delivered by practitioners who are not regulated by law, there is no simple answer.

The PSA is an independent oversight body for professional healthcare regulation, tasked by parliament to:

  • Report on the performance of the nine statutory regulators, such as the General Pharmaceutical Council;
  • Review all decisions by made fitness-to-practise tribunals;
  • Run an accreditation programme for voluntary registers of practitioners (whose occupations are not regulated by law).

It is the latter that we are writing to you about today. Let’s go back to that person in your pharmacy asking about acupuncture. What would you say? Remember, the healthcare practitioner who administers the acupuncture does not need to be registered, which means their practice does not have to be regulated or overseen in any official capacity. And acupuncturists are not unique in this regard. Many healthcare occupations are unregulated.

So, what does this mean? Unless the public know what to check for, they may be handing over their hard-earned money to a practitioner who has no training and qualifications, who has no insurance should something go wrong and who has never considered signing up to a code of ethics. But if they had chosen their practitioner from registers accredited by the PSA, these things (and others) would have been checked and verified. It is quick and easy to check if a practitioner is on an accredited register at:

Our mission is to spread the word about accredited registers, which provide primary care practitioners across the UK the tools to advise people who are not sure where to seek advice. We know from market research that there is a belief that ‘someone’ is regulating all healthcare practitioners, but it is simply not true.

Find out more about accredited registers at:


Roisin Fairfax, head of accreditation, Professional Standards Authority

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206315

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