On Saturday 21st May, 2011, the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH-Intl) held its inaugural educational event for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners using nutritional and herbal modalities at the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM), London. The event, Rules and Regulations in Clinical Practice: Developing your Practice in Spite of the EU Regulatory Juggernaut was sponsored by the General Naturopathic Council (GNC) and the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
The centrepiece of the event was an interactive day of lectures and workshops, headed by ANH-Intl’s Dr Robert Verkerk and Meleni Aldridge, who presented to a full house of practitioners who hailed mainly from the UK, with a sprinkling from other parts of Europe. The event, coordinated faultlessly by Adele Wolstenhulme from Health4Life, was supported by 19 exhibitors, including Physica Energetics (the Gold sponsor), Archturus, LipoSpheric Nutrients, Balens and Viridian Nutrition.
The Royal Society of Medicine, London
We are extremely grateful to the RSM for providing such a superb venue and offering exceptional support to the delegates, the exhibitors and ourselves throughout the day. The lecture theatre was comfortable, technically well appointed and – most importantly – staffed by experienced and helpful audio-visual personnel. All in all, the staff were friendly and efficient and the refreshments were delicious and professionally served – we couldn’t really have asked for more. So, many thanks, RSM!
Before the lectures began, Meleni Aldridge, ANH-Intl’s Executive Coordinator, introduced the audience to the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) and the concept of coherence. The IHM has shown that, contrary to received wisdom, the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than vice versa, and that these signals affect emotional processing, attention, perception, memory, learning and problem solving. According to over 19 years of IHM research, coherence occurs when there is high heart–brain synchronisation and subsequently improves cognitive function, leading to – among other things – improved cardiovascular, nervous, hormonal and immune functioning.
Meleni Aldridge, Executive Coordinator at the Alliance for Natural Health International
The group then engaged in a 3-minute coherence exercise, in which the participants’ combined heart signals were funneled through a single person seated on the front stage, in this case, ANH-Intl’s science and communications officer, Adam Smith. Given the amount of information that was going to be exchanged during the course of the day, Meleni made it clear that spending a few minutes on this exercise might encourage a higher level of retention among the participants.
It’s interesting that the European Commission also regularly refers to ‘coherence’ when they discuss the raft of regulations they are imposing on Europe’s half a billion citizens. The Commission sees coherence rather differently: as the end-game of regulation, the point at which operation of the free market and consumer protection hang, supposedly, in perfect balance across all 27 Member States. We leave you to decide which definition of coherence you prefer!
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty, and handing the platform over to Rob Verkerk, Meleni reminded her audience: “Remember when you were children? The most exciting thing about the game was that the rules would change all the time! But we seem to have lost some of our plasticity as we’ve got older. We need to remember what that felt like, because the rules of the game have now changed with the introduction of all the EU legislation. We now need to know how to play smart within and around them.”
The central areas of discussion during the course of the day were European Union (EU) food and medicinal law as they apply to products, along with nutrition and health claims law, as well as the UK CAP (Committee on Advertising Practice) Code as it pertains to claims, advertising and any commercial communications.
During the morning session, the two ANH-Intl presenters detailed for the audience the various elements of European law that either already are, or soon will be, encroaching on clinical practice of nutritional therapy and herbal medicine, as well as the origins of the key laws. To any who were not already aware, it became abundantly clear that consumer protection is being used as an excuse to restrict particular natural healthcare practices that are not formally accepted by mainstream healthcare.
Robert Verkerk, Executive and Scientific Director at the Alliance for Natural Health International
A key task of the presenters was to ensure that the delegates understood the relative weight of different rules and regulations. The speakers made clear that European medicinal law, in the form of the Human Medicinal Products Directive (HMPD), provides the biggest stick with which to beat natural therapies, particularly concerning the use of natural products that are not licensed as medicines.
Dr Verkerk told the delegates, “Medicinal law has supremacy over food and food supplement law, so wherever there is doubt as to whether a product is a food or a medicine, the law gives regulators a loaded gun to shoot arbitrarily. The UK’s CAP Code rules, adjudicated by the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency, are at the other end of the spectrum. These are media industry self-regulation rules, not laws or regulations per se. The main consequences of non-compliance with the CAP Code are naming and shaming, whereas prosecution under EU laws or their equivalents that have been transposed into UK law hold more serious consequences for non-compliance.”
As stated in black and white in what Dr Verkerk referred to as the ‘grand master’ of EU laws affecting natural health, the HMPD, the law is drafted with the aim of “…not hinder[ing] the development of the pharmaceutical industry or trade in medicinal products within the Community” (Directive 2001/83/EC, Preamble, Paragraph ). With this intent in mind, it’s no wonder this law poses such a challenge to natural health….
During the afternoon’s interactive sessions, delegates considered ten different scenarios typical of those facing practitioners in real life, and, aided by the information gained in the morning sessions, applied their new knowledge to resolve difficulties. Working as 15 different groups, the delegates performed very well, demonstrating a deep understanding of the new regulatory environment in which they are now working. Before the final summing-up and closing session by Dr Verkerk, to re-affirm the finer points of the day’s learning, delegates participated in a challenging, 20-question quiz!
Adele Wolstenhulme, Inside Out Nutrition, and Meleni Aldridge, ANH-Intl, during one of the learning exercises
Feedback from event has been extremely positive. A few comments offered to ANH-Intl are given below:
“I think the conference today really hits the mark in terms of taking a very complex set of regulations and putting it into a digestible form for practitioners, laying out not only the regulations, but also the practical side of how we live within this new regulatory environment.”
Kathleen Devereaux, herbal medicine practitioner
“Today’s event has been informative and enlightening, and it’s refreshing to have honest and factual information. Many thanks to the Alliance for Natural Health!”
Janie Perry, nutritional therapist
“May I just say that so far, I’ve found today so very inspiring and enlightening, and I particularly loved Meleni’s introduction with the HeartMath and having a practical demonstration of our appreciation and gratitude to raise our consciousness, and letting that energy flow towards Adam in particular. That was a beautiful introduction to a very informative day and one which is going to give me greater clarity, I hope.”
Wendy Schofield, herbal medicine student
“I would like to thank the ANH-Intl and its team for a remarkable event – I’m always surprised by their creativity and their efficiency in organisation. Thanks very much, ANH!”
David Whitley, Maharishi Ayurveda
“Coming to the conference today, without knowing much about the whole situation but having a little knowledge, in some respects I did feel intimidated, because I didn’t think I’d be able to cope with the seminar. But in point of fact, it’s made it a lot easier for me to understand what’s going on. So, at the end of the day, I’m actually getting more knowledge out of this than just sitting and looking at any textbook or on the Internet.”
"It was a great day, with some amazing information, brilliant stands exhibiting some very interesting and different supplements and I worry for anyone who is not making the effort to keep up with this changing picture. I implore practitioners not to bury their heads in the sand because it all seems too complex. Yes the information was overwhelming, but ANH provided such a clear and coherent message on the day."
Louise Carder, nutritional practitioner
Robert Verkerk and Meleni Aldridge, Alliance for Natural Health International
As the regulatory noose tightens, there is an increasing need for the CAM practitioner community to show itself as responsible, aware and legislatively compliant. The more educated practitioners are, the better it is for natural healthcare in the UK and across Europe. This inaugural educational event demonstrates our commitment as an organisation to assisting this process. We were heartened to see so many practitioners give their time and show their determination to educate themselves last Saturday. We’re happy that the event was a success – and that so many delegates have expressed their gratitude.
However, this is only the beginning. Healthcare regulations are changing all the time as the powers-that-be change the rules of the game. You can be assured that ANH-Intl will be with them every step of the way, keeping a close eye on the moves being made by regulators and legislators, and if the demand is there to make this an annual update event, we’re happy to oblige!
The video and supporting materials will be available for sale in a few weeks to practitioners who missed the event. As ANH-Intl is a not-for-profit organisation funded on donations, all proceeds from sales of the event materials will go toward campaign funds.
Updated: 26 May 2011
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