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British Acupuncture Council calls on Royal Society for Public Health to retract negative acupuncture claims

British Acupuncture Council calls on Royal Society for Public Health to retract negative acupuncture claims

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.


Notes to editor

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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 (

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

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