Press releases

The chief executive of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has called on the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) to withdraw its claims that acupuncture poses a serious risk to the public.

It follows publication of a RSPH report ‘Skins and Needles’ on Friday 14th June, which said one in five people who have a tattoo, a body piercing, electrolysis or acupuncture suffer some sort of health setback as a result.

Teresa Williamson, acting CEO of the BAcC, wrote to RSPH chief executive, Shirley Cramer, after the claims were published by multiple news outlets over the weekend.
In her letter she set out the BAcC’s commitment to upholding stringent safety standards to protect the public and support its members.

She said: “We have been contacted by many of our members who were alarmed by the report and felt that they had been misrepresented.

“The BAcC is regulated under the Professional Standards Authority’s accredited register scheme, a government-backed scheme to protect the public. We work hard to ensure we meet the stringent criteria set out by the PSA in order to protect the public and support our members.

“As the leading acupuncture body in the UK, we are committed to ensuring the standards of professional acupuncture remain exemplary.”

She added that all members of the BAcC are trained to degree level in traditional acupuncture. The training covers Chinese medicine, western biomedical sciences, anatomy, physiology and pathology and takes a minimum of 3,600 hours of study to complete.

All members are also required to undergo continuing professional development, must have training on how to deal with adverse events and are bound by the BAcC’s Code of Safe Practice and Professional Conduct.

Ian Stones, safe practice officer at the BAcC, said: “The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) welcomes any measure that brings unregistered practitioners up to the high standards we uphold, as anyone operating at sub-optimal levels of hygiene reflects badly on the whole profession.

The RSPH is calling for legislation to ensure that all practitioners providing procedures in which the skin barrier is broken have a qualification in infection control as a condition of getting a licence from the council.

While welcoming the recommendation, Mr Stones argues that members of the BAcC should be exempt as they already meet published safety standards as part of their registration.

He said that the BAcC’s own adverse incident reporting system reveals that out of two million treatments delivered by members each year, just 20 (0.001%) result in an adverse event.

“The vast majority of incidents are minor, such as a small bleed or a bruise when the needle is removed. While there is a risk to any healthcare procedure, the number of adverse events in acupuncture is very similar to the rates of adverse events in hospitals across Europe,” he added.

In an email to members of staff at the British Acupuncture Council, policy and research consultant at the RSPH said deputy chief executive Duncan Stephenson had agreed to a meeting to discuss the issue.

--ENDS--

Notes to editor

For further information on acupuncture, case studies or interviews, please contact Katie Osborne on 07990 922615 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For a full list of British Acupuncture Council press releases visit the newsroom.

About the BAcC

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of nearly 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture. BAcC members practise a traditional, holistic style of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment based on a system developed and refined over 2,000 years. To achieve BAcC membership, practitioners must first undertake extensive training in traditional acupuncture (minimum three years full-time or part-time equivalent), which includes physiology, anatomy and other biomedical sciences appropriate to the practice of acupuncture.

Traditional acupuncture

Traditional acupuncture as practised by members of the BAcC is based on Chinese medicine principles that have been developed, researched and refined for over 2,500 years. Traditional acupuncture is holistic, not focused on isolated symptoms. It regards pain and illness, whether physical or mental, to be a sign the whole body is out of balance. Western or medical acupuncture is a more recent development practised predominantly by doctors and physiotherapists, who use acupuncture techniques within their existing scope of practice on the basis of a western medical diagnosis. There is a growing body of evidence showing how effective acupuncture is in a range of conditions:

Why use a BAcC practitioner?

Only British Acupuncture Council members belong to a Professional Standards Authority accredited register, providing professional guarantees of safety, education and continuing development (professionalstandards.org.uk)

Look for the letters MBAcC after the name of your acupuncturist to ensure:

  • extensive training – minimum three years degree level – with relevant western medicine including anatomy and physiology
  • adherence to BAcC codes of safe practice and professional conduct
  • compliance with current health and safety legislation
  • full insurance cover for medical malpractice and public/products liability
  • mandatory continuing professional development to keep knowledge and skills up to date
  • postgraduate study of special interests such as pain management and acupuncture for children

Find a BAcC registered acupuncturist near you

The British Acupuncture Council is among dozens of leading health organisations who have signed a position statement (pdf) calling on the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE)  to conduct a ‘full and proper revision’ of its 2009 guidelines on the Recognition and Management of Depression in Adults.

The coalition of stakeholders, led by the Society for Psychotherapy Research, claims the latest draft guidelines are not fit for purpose and if published would seriously impede the care of millions of people in the UK suffering from depression, potentially even causing clinical harm.

The British Acupuncture is calling on health care professionals across the UK to consider prescribing acupuncture for patients with anxiety.

It comes at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from today (Monday 13 May 2019) to Sunday 19 May 2019.

According to recent evidence (1) acupuncture is an effective treatment for anxiety with research showing that between 1-30% of the global population suffers from some sort of the condition (2).

Head of research at the British Acupuncture Council, Mark Bovey, said: ‘When the body is under stress, an area of the brain called the hypothalamus releases neurochemicals, and research shows that acupuncture can calm this response.

The British Acupuncture Council has said it is ‘extremely disappointed’ that updated guidance on the treatment of urinary incontinence does not include acupuncture.

The new guidance, published today by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), recommends mainline treatments including losing weight, eliminating caffeine, pelvic floor exercises, bladder training through behavioural therapy and anticholinergic medicines.

But it fails to include acupuncture as a recommended treatment, despite the publication of two landmark, high quality clinical studies showing positive results.

A researcher from a top US cancer hospital is to deliver a keynote speech in London highlighting the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain in oncology patients.

Weidong Lu, principal investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston, Massachusetts and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, will present at the 21st Acupuncture Research Resource Centre (ARRC) conference on 23 March 2019.

His talk will focus on ‘oncology acupuncture’, a new and emerging field of research, which helps with symptom management during a patient’s cancer journey from the active treatment phase to end-of-life care.

Dr Lu, who established the Oncology Acupuncture Specialty at the DFCI in 2000 and has since published more than 60 academic papers, said: ‘I will describe the practice model of Oncology Acupuncture at the DFCI, review evidence from randomised clinic trials (RCTs) and discuss future directions of oncology acupuncture research and practice in cancer care.’

Numerous RCTs and systematic reviews (SRs) on cancer-related pain have been published in recent years. An overview of 14 SRs between 2005 and 2017 found that acupuncture was similarly effective to analgesic drugs but that it gave extra benefit when used in addition to medication (Anshasi and Ahmed, 2018).

Secondary pain that arises as a result of conventional cancer treatment may also be an issue, in particular joint pain associated with aromatase inhibitor drugs in breast cancer survivors. Two systematic reviews in 2017 (Chen and Roberts), found conflicting evidence, one recommending acupuncture and one not, however the evidence for medications and for exercise was also poor. A new, larger and higher quality RCT has produced positive results for acupuncture, compared either to sham control or to a waiting list control (Hershman, 2018).

Acupuncture’s effectiveness is well established for chronic pain in primary and secondary care with musculoskeletal conditions and headaches (Vickers, 2018). There is also some promising evidence in respect of chemotherapy induced peripheral nerve pain but it is at a preliminary level (Oh and Kim, 2018).

Dr Lu will be joined at the ARRC event by president of the Italian Federation of Acupuncture Societies, Dr Carlo Maria Giovanardi.

Dr Giovanardi, a qualified surgeon and founding member of the Association of Medical Acupuncturists in Bologna, will present the preliminary data from his latest study which looks at acupuncture as an effective and safe treatment for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).

He said: ‘Taxane-based CIPN is a frequent side effect, observed in 15-60 per cent of breast cancer patients. It can produce severe neurological deficits and neuropathic pain and it is a potential reason for interrupting or reducing the dose of chemotherapy. Specific and effective treatments are lacking.

‘Although our study was very small, the results show that acupuncture can significantly improve the subjective perception of pain and seems also to have an impact in reducing CIPN-related symptoms.’

He called for further studies to be carried out to confirm his results.

Now in its 21st year the ARRC Symposium is the UK’s premier acupuncture research annual event. Other speakers include:

  • Kajsa Landgren and Siiri Hedlund from Lund University in Sweden: Acupuncture in anxiety, depression and sleeping problems.
  • Nicola Robinson from London Southbank University: Stroke
  • Norma Rodgers from the Hewitt Fertility Centre at Liverpool Women’s Hospital: Acupuncture and IVF
  • Felicity Bishop from the University of Southampton: Non-specific mechanisms in orthodox and CAM management of low back pain
  • Cinzia Scorzon from the University of Westminster: Acupuncture v CBT for generalised anxiety disorder

Notes to editor

***Press passes are now available for the conference and interviews can be arranged with all the speakers.***

For further information, case studies, interviews or to arrange a press pass, please contact: Katie Osborne on 07990 922615 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the BAcC

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of nearly 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture. BAcC members practise a traditional, holistic style of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment based on a system developed and refined over 2,000 years. To achieve BAcC membership, practitioners must first undertake extensive training in traditional acupuncture (minimum three years full-time or part-time equivalent), which includes physiology, anatomy and other biomedical sciences appropriate to the practice of acupuncture.

Traditional acupuncture

Traditional acupuncture as practised by members of the BAcC is based on Chinese medicine principles that have been developed, researched and refined for over 2,500 years. Traditional acupuncture is holistic, not focused on isolated symptoms. It regards pain and illness, whether physical or mental, to be a sign the whole body is out of balance. Western or medical acupuncture is a more recent development practised predominantly by doctors and physiotherapists, who use acupuncture techniques within their existing scope of practice on the basis of a western medical diagnosis. There is a growing body of evidence showing how effective acupuncture is in a range of conditions:

Why use a BAcC practitioner?

Only British Acupuncture Council members belong to a Professional Standards Authority accredited register, providing professional guarantees of safety, education and continuing development (professionalstandards.org.uk)

Look for the letters MBAcC after the name of your acupuncturist to ensure:

  • extensive training – minimum three years degree level – with relevant western medicine including anatomy and physiology
  • adherence to BAcC codes of safe practice and professional conduct
  • compliance with current health and safety legislation
  • full insurance cover for medical malpractice and public/products liability
  • mandatory continuing professional development to keep knowledge and skills up to date
  • postgraduate study of special interests such as pain management and acupuncture for children

Find a BAcC registered acupuncturist near you

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Press Contact

Katie Osborne

Tel: 07990 922615