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Press releases

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a new guideline for chronic pain. This guideline was driven by the urgent need to cut down prescriptions of opioids and other painkillers and includes acupuncture as one of the four recommended treatments.

This is NICE’s first guideline for chronic pain in general, rather than a specific painful condition, and the implications of these recommendations are enormous for UK healthcare policy and allocation of resources.

Around a third of the population may be affected by chronic pain; many of those also have a diagnosis of depression, and it is a major contributor to absence from work.

Pain management in this new guideline is focused on chronic primary pain, i.e. there is no underlying condition that adequately accounts for the pain or its impact. It is often accompanied by significant emotional distress and functional disability.

Common conditions that would qualify are fibromyalgia, myofascial pain (i.e. in the muscles and surrounding connective tissue), chronic neck pain and chronic pelvic pain, as well as many others.

Acupuncture (within a traditional Chinese or a western framework) is recommended alongside; exercise programs, psychological therapies and antidepressant drugs.

NICE considered a number of treatments in creating this guideline including opioids, anti-inflammatories, paracetamol, benzodiazepines and gabapentinoids. None of these were found to have evidence of benefit for chronic pain and there are possible harms associated with their use. Acupuncture was found to be superior to both sham and usual care for pain according to the 32 studies reviewed by NICE.

Two existing studies, and a further analysis by NICE, showed that acupuncture was cost-effective within a NHS framework.

This new guideline is a significant development for both patients with chronic pain and acupuncture practitioners in the UK. BAcC accredited acupuncturists are particularly well qualified for treating the wide spectrum of symptoms seen in patients with chronic primary pain conditions due to their degree level training and wide scope of practice.

To learn more about the guideline, click here:


Notes to editor

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

About the BAcC

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the leading self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture in the UK. With a membership of nearly 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists, it is the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture.

We have carefully reviewed the list of business closures issued by the Government late on 14 January and are assured that we do not fall within the ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine’ category for the purpose of the closures. This list of closures refers to ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine’ in the context of retail and the selling of products. In contrast, our members provide medical treatments which have been given exemption under Personal Care Facilities and Close Contact Services.

This position is echoed by the Government in its closure list under Personal Care Facilities and Close Contact Services:

‘Personal care services provided for essential medical and health needs, which cannot be deferred, may continue. For example, treatments for a diagnosed health condition or injury that is currently causing severe pain or mobility issues, or severely impacting quality of life, or for cosmetic treatments associated with cancer treatment. This does not extend to services provided for general stress relief, relaxation or preventative healthcare purposes. The guidance on safer working in the Close Contact Services should be followed.’

Furthermore, the BAcC, through the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), sought and received reassurance from the Department of Health and Social Care regarding accredited registers.

The BAcC, (and other accredited registers) have been provided clarification for our members’ position. The guidance below is from the PSA: 


The BAcC contends that as accredited acupuncturists providing medical and health treatments, aligned with the PSA, we do not fall within the business closure listing updated on 14 January and members practising in England may maintain the position of treating patients with urgent medical needs.

The Welsh Government has come to the unfortunate decision of restricting members to remote-only practice from Friday 23 of October until the start of Monday 9 November

This is because, in contrast to the other three nations of the UK, the Welsh government mentions acupuncture specifically as a service that is required to close.

We believe that this decision is based on erroneous classification of acupuncture with unrelated therapies, overlooking it as a legitimate professional health service. We are as disappointed as you are with this outcome, and along with the RCHM, have been working hard to appeal to the Welsh Government to reverse their decision.

As part of this effort the BAcC have written a letter to the First Minister and Health Minister, as well as other key figures in Wales explaining what we believe to be a mistake in their judgement, and a recommendation to reverse their decision.

A copy of this letter can be found below.

The chief executive of the British Acupuncture Council has warmly welcomed steps by the government to help the self-employed but warned that not being able to access funds before June could be problematic.

Jennifer Norton said the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak this evening [26 March 2020], would provide a ‘lifeline’ to self-employed acupuncturists, but those in need of immediate financial assistance may  struggle.

The measures were announced as part of a raft of economic assistance being delivered by the government during the coronavirus lockdown.

Ms Norton said: “I welcome the move by the Chancellor to support self-employed people durng these unprecedented times to provide parity with employed people.

The chief executive of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has said its members ‘stand ready’ to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Jennifer Norton said BAcC members were highly qualified healthcare practitioners who have been trained in physiology and western medical science as well as traditional Chinese medicine.

She was speaking in response to a call by Health Secretary Matt Hancock for 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS.
There is a growing body of evidence showing that acupuncture is effective in treating a variety of conditions including pain, the side effects of cancer treatment, anxiety and much more.

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