The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Beauty and Wellbeing, UK, has undertaken an investigation into the ‘complementary therapies sector’, to consider how the sector can support everyone’s physical health, mental health, and well-being and take pressure off the NHS. In their recent document, they state:

The complementary therapies industry is an integral part of the Personal Care sector, which includes beauty, wellbeing, and alternative therapies. These therapies can be key to supporting everyone’s health and mental wellbeing…

To ensure complementary therapies can adequately support the NHS, we need to attract more talent into the sector and ensure all therapists receive the right training to become highly skilled professionals.

We also need to enhance the perception of the professionalism within the sector, so that it is no longer seen as ‘frivolous and fluffy’ and non-essential. Building awareness and understanding of its value in supporting our nation’s health is one step. However, it also important to crack down on any bad practice and the ‘underground market’ of poor treatment…

The committee makes the following recommendations:

1. The Government must work with NHS England to better promote the benefits of social prescribing with GPs, nurses and other health and care professionals, and how they can refer people to non-clinical complementary therapy services.
2. The Personal Care sector team in the Department for Business, Energy, Industry and Strategy must work with officials within the Department for Health and Social Care responsible for social prescribing to better integrate complementary therapy services into the NHS, and produce guidance to support health professionals and therapists in doing so.
3. The Department for Health and Social Care must undertake or fund research studies to demonstrate the value of integrating complementary therapy services into the NHS through social prescribing.
4. The Department for Education must revisit the gap between the apprentice wage and minimum wage for apprentices aged 19+, and provide financial incentives for employers to take on learners on any ‘job ready ‘qualification.
5. The Government must give Environmental health officers (EHOs) greater powers to act quickly to deal with bad practice and lead a crack-down on tax evading businesses that are driving down prices and undermining legitimate businesses under pressure.

The evidence that we have received during this investigation clearly demonstrate that greater support
and recognition is needed for the complementary therapies sector to ensure that they are able support
everyone’s physical health, mental health and wellbeing and take pressure off the NHS.
We hope the Government will review our recommendations in order to support the complementary
therapies sector and ensure they have adequate funding and acknowledgement.

In case you are wondering what therapies they refer to, here is their complete list of the treatments (including links to what they seem to think about them):

Alexander technique


Body massage

Bowen technique

Cranio sacral therapy





Microsystems acupuncture


Nutritional therapy




Sports massage

Sports therapy

Yoga therapy

This could have made me laugh, had it not been so serious. The committee is composed of MPs who might be full of goodwill. Yet, they seem utterly clueless regarding the ‘complementary therapies sector’. For instance, they seem to be unaware of the evidence for some of the treatments they want to promote, e.g. craniosacral therapy, aromatherapy, Reiki, shiatsu, energy healing, or reflexology (which is far less positive than they seem to assume); and they aim at enhancing the “perception of the professionalism” instead of improving the PROFESSIONALISM of the therapists (which obviously would include adherence to evidence-based practice). And perhaps the committee might have given some thought to the question of whether it is ethical to push dubious therapies onto the unsuspecting public.

I could go on, but the perplexing wooliness of the document speaks for itself, I think.

And in case you are wondering who the MP members of the committee are, here is the list of its members:

• Carolyn Harris MP – Co-Chair
• Judith Cummins MP – Co-Chair
• Jessica Morden MP – Vice-Chair
• Jackie Doyle-Price MP – Vice-Chair
• Peter Dowd MP – Treasurer
• Nick Smith MP – Secretary
• Caroline Nokes MP – Member
• Sarah Champion MP – Member
• Alex Davies-Jones MP – Member
• Kate Osamor MP – Member
• John McNally MP – Member
• Kevan Jones MP – Member
• Gagan Mohindra MP- Member

The Secretariat for this APPG is Dentons Global Advisors with support from the National Hair and Beauty Federation, the Federation of Holistic Therapists and



Two hours after having posted this, I begin to feel bad about being so dismissive. Let me thus try to do something constructive: I herewith offer to give one or more lectures to the committee about the evidence as it pertains to the therapies they included in their report.

14 Responses to The UK ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty and Wellbeing’ wants us to use more reflexology and Reiki on the NHS

  • I’ve had a quick look at some of the references. Great exercise in cherry-picking, and citing sources that don’t support the point being made. But references for the most outrageous claims seem to be absent. eg:

    “These therapies can be key to supporting everyone’s health and mental wellbeing.”

    The APPG’s understanding of science is exemplified by this:

    “The Department for Health and Social Care must undertake or fund research studies to demonstrate the value of integrating complementary therapy services into the NHS through social prescribing.”

    In other words, decide what we want to see, and design studies that confirm our bias. The APPG thus shows that it is indeed “‘frivolous and fluffy”.

    • yes, the document is overflowing with utter ridiculousness.
      It also demonstrates something that I predicted some time ago: social prescribing is being used to promote dodgy therapies.

    • @Les Rose

      In other words, decide what we want to see, and design studies that confirm our bias.

      I’d almost say that they copied this from the OAM NCCAM NCCIH, the original mission of which was not so much to investigate the efficacy of alternative treatments, but to validate those treatments.

      Ironically, with a cumulative spending of well over $4bn over the past decades, the NCCIH hardly managed to validate even a single alternative modality … No doubt, this UK initiative will go the same way, wasting taxpayers’ money on trying to shoehorn quackery into regular medicine.

  • Firstly, what the Sam Hill is “beauty” in the context of “beauty and wellbeing”? Do tell. What’s next, the NHS has to prescribe me a facial–for my “beauty”?

  • Thank you for this very important post Edzard.

    Social prescribing is of very serious concern to me as I have extensive first hand experience of some of the utterly insane therapies and activities offered.

    Most recently my GP’s social prescriber recommeded that I attend a strange organisation offering SCAM alongside events featuring psychic mediums. A bit of digging showed some extremely concerning connections. There is no safeguarding or due dilligence in regard to service providers, partly because so many of the NHS staff involved in these initiatives are SCAM enthusiasts.

    I have made use of social prescribing whilst unwell in order to have a good old rummage around inside its innards and I will report back as soon as I am able. What I have discovered is truly shocking.

    The other deeply concerning way in which SCAM is being promoted in the NHS, and vast amounts of money squandered, is via the mental health “recovery” movment, which also promotes SCAM via “patient empowerment” and token vulnerable people with “lived experience” who are moved into positions of power and influence within the NHS.

    Many of these token people prefer to think of themselves as “shamans” and “energy healers” rather than people with serious mental illness, which is unsurprising really. Most people would prefer to think of themselves as having supernatural powers that the “powers that be” wish to conceal, rather than having a serious mental illness.

    Unfortunately this has birthed a situation in which deluded, dangerous charlatans (including antisemites, anti-vaxxers and people who think the Queen was a blood drinking lizard) are providing services to extremely vulnerable people via the NHS. The potential for the radicalisation of swathes of vulnerable people is a real and serious issue.

    There is more to tell but I am still recovering from a nasty infection and have been out of action for a while. It will take me a few days to put everything together and then I will be thinking about how best to proceed and will be contacting people here for advice.

    I am a vulnerable person myself, but have used my vulnerability to access data. The whistleblowing needs to be performed by academics and posters here, as there is a high risk I will not be taken seriously, as has happened before when I have tried to draw attention to this kind of thing.

    Thank you again Edzard and a belated Happy Birthday to you!

    • No, thank YOU!
      This sounds exactly as I had feared.

    • @louise
      I have recently collected a lot of info via FOI requests, about use of SCAM in NHS palliative care. Example from Poole-Dorset NHS trust:

      “Chakra Balancing is a therapy which combines aromatherapy, crystal therapy, sound healing and energy healing to work on bringing balance to the chakra system, the seven energy centres located within the body.”

      This is from their internal procedure. It will take me a while to process all this – I have data from 21 trusts so far.

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