Acupuncture: efficacy, safety & practice
British Medical Association
Board of Science and Education
At the 1998 Annual Representative Meeting of the
BMA a resolution was passed that the Board of
Science and Education should "investigate the
scientific basis and efficacy of acupuncture and the
quality of training and standards of competence in
This report reviews published literature and
research on acupuncture, looks at safety aspects
including the possible adverse effects of treatment,
discusses education and training provision,
presents results from a survey of UK GPs, and
suggests future developments for acupuncture,
particularly its potential for integration into the
It will provide doctors and other healthcare professionals, researchers, students, patients, and
purchasers of healthcare with information on this most widely used therapy of complementary
and alternative medicine, enabling them to become more informed on the value of
acupuncture and its likely place within the NHS
Over the past two decades the BMA has published two major reports on complementary and
alternative medicine (BMA, 1986; BMA, 1993). This current report arises from a resolution at
the 1998 BMA Annual Representative Meeting requesting the Board of Science and
Education to "investigate the scientific basis and efficacy of acupuncture and the quality of
training and standards of competence in its practitioners".
Current estimates show that 1 in 5 people in the UK use some form of CAM (Ernst
and White, 2000).
Acupuncture is one of the most popular CAM therapies and has been reported to be
available in approximately 86% of NHS chronic pain services (DoH, 1999).
There has been a large increase in the numbers of individuals practising acupuncture
in the past two years; approximately 2,050 CAM practitioners are registered
acupuncturists, and 3,530 statutory health professionals are registered with
acupuncture organisations in the UK (Mills and Budd, 2000).
At present acupuncture practitioners can register with a number of organisations, and
there is no single list of acupuncturists in the UK that doctors or patients can access.
Practitioners generally follow one of two broad theoretical bases, Traditional Chinese
Medicine or Western acupuncture.