Michael Watson - headshot - sml

Why it’s never been a better time to be a complementary health practitioner

Michael Watson, chair of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), tells you all you need to know:

When I took on the role of CNHC Chair in January this year, I said that I believed there has never been a better time to be a complementary health practitioner. A bold statement you might think, when many are facing uncertainty about the future and wondering how to win new clients. Well, I still believe it to be the case and here I’ll explain why.

Complementary healthcare has a key role to play in supporting the wellbeing agenda

Now, more than ever before, there is a focus on wellbeing. We are all living longer and for many this means managing – rather than curing – a range of long term conditions. The big question now is how do we support people to maintain a good quality of life and manage their wellbeing over the long term?

This is where complementary healthcare comes into its own. Amongst other therapies we have nutritional therapists who can provide well-informed, evidence-based guidance over diet, exercise and lifestyle. We have a range of hands-on approaches such as massage, aromatherapy, Bowen therapy, reflexology, shiatsu, sports therapy, acupuncture, healing and reiki that can help to reduce stress, ease symptoms, support sleep and so much more. We also have approaches such as Alexander Technique teaching, naturopathy and yoga therapy which encourage improved self-management as well as the easing of symptoms. And we have hypnotherapy which provides support for tackling a range of issues and encourages a healthy, positive mindset – vital to those who want to continue to get the most out of life for the long term.

But focusing on the long term is not just about the elderly. We know that complementary healthcare is also a wonderful preventative measure. I’m a great believer in approaches that introduce children to healthy habits. Many people will have heard of initiatives to bring mindfulness into schools. In our sector we also have a number of programmes such as Hypnotherapy in Schools and Massage in Schools which are incredibly successful and give children the opportunity to experience the benefits from a young age.

Complementary healthcare provides greater patient choice

We know that complementary therapies are popular with the public – estimates suggest that it used by 1 in 5 members of the public. However, much of this is provided in private practice and I want to see it become far more widely available in mainstream health and care services.

Complementary healthcare has great potential for improving patient choice and supporting the health service with providing ‘patient-centred’ care. As we see the move to individualised packages of care increase, complementary healthcare could be accessed by many more patients over time.

At CNHC we are working closely with the Professional Standards Authority and its ‘Let’s work together’ campaign, to make the case for practitioners on Accredited Registers such as CNHC’s to work alongside health and care professionals as part of the wider workforce

In my view, an integrated approach where patients have far greater access to a range of healthcare professionals – including complementary therapists – must be developed.

You can demonstrate you meet UK wide standards

Historically a lack of clarity on standards and regulation has been cited as a reason to not use complementary healthcare in mainstream services. To counter this CNHC was set up in 2008 with government backing to show that in fact there are standards and that practitioners can meet them.

The fact that the CNHC register is voluntary shows that the practitioners who sign up are going out of their way to demonstrate they meet UK standards by holding the CNHC quality mark. I consider that this gives our registrants a competitive advantage because of the level of reassurance it provides to the public and employers alike.

This has been strengthened by the Professional Standards Authority’s Accredited Registers programme. The government said last year that where the public are looking for a health and care approaches not regulated by law, they should only use the services of practitioners on Accredited Registers.

CNHC registration – a growing currency in uncertain times

Over 5,600 practitioners have registered with us so far and numbers are rising. This says to me that complementary health practitioners want to be part of a profession that stands up for itself and is ready to be counted – ready to play its part.

There’s lots of talk about uncertainty. I see uncertainty as opportunity. It means you can decide how you want to react and what you want to create in spite of it – not because of it.  I know that complementary health practitioners feel passionate about their work and the difference it makes. So, remember you are part of a growing workforce of practitioners who can play a part in the health and wellbeing of the nation.

I’m optimistic. – I hope you are too!

CNHC at camexpo

CNHC is exhibiting at stand 1320 and running a Business Clinic session on Saturday 24th September at 2pm on How to play your part in a new health and wellbeing workforce. camexpo is a great opportunity to meet the CNHC team and network with other registrants and practitioners. CNHC registrants are eligible for discounted entry.

If you want to know more about CNHC and their work, please visit: or call 020 3668 0406.

camexpo returns to Olympia, London, on 24-25 September 2016.  To register your ticket and book workshops, please visit – and quote priority code CAMX524. 

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