Original research

Evidence-based practice in British complementary and alternative medicine: double standards?

Katherine Hunt, Edzard Ernst

Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter & Plymouth, Exeter, UK

Correspondence to: [email protected]

Objectives: The principles of evidence-based practice (EBP) are fundamentalto medical ethics and seem essential for any form of healthcare. In 2000, a House of Lords Select Committee recommendedthat the ethos of EBP should extend to complementary and alternativemedicine. The aim of this investigation was to determine whetherEBP is incorporated in the codes of ethics of British complementaryand alternative medicine organizations.

Methods: We obtained the codes of the following bodies: Association ofNaturopathic Practitioners, Association of Traditional ChineseMedicine (UK), Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, BritishAcupuncture Council, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council,European Herbal Practitioners Association, General ChiropracticCouncil, General Osteopathic Council, General Regulatory Councilfor Complementary Therapies, National Institute of Medical Herbalists,Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, Society of Homeopaths,UK Healers, Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. We thenextracted the statements referring to EBP and compared thiswith what the respective codes of British doctors and nursesproscribed.

Results: Only the General Chiropractic Council, the General OsteopathicCouncil and the General Regulatory Council for ComplementaryTherapies oblige their members to adopt EBP.

Conclusions: This discloses double standards in UK health care which maycompromise patient safety.