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The British Chiropractic Association: aligning itself with UK fundamentalist chiropractors?

The concept of pursuing prescribing rights for chiropractors came about as a result of the 2002 UK Health and Social Care Act, which permitted professions allied to medicine, including chiropractic, to attain rights for limited prescribing. As a consequence, in 2009, following a vote by British Chiropractic Association (BCA) members at its AGM in 2008, the BCA undertook a postal ballot of its members to determine whether there was support for pursuing these rights, the results of which were announced on the opening day of Richard Brown's presidency. Two thirds of those eligible to vote chose not to express a view, but of those who did nearly 80% supported a proposal to further explore prescribing rights for UK chiropractors.

On the 1st September 2009 the Council of the British Chiropractic Association approached the UK chiropractic regulatory body, the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), to ask it to consider making an application to the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA - part of the UK Department of Health) for limited prescribing rights for UK chiropractors. However, following some reflection and a change of opinion by Richard Brown (after continued criticism from quarters of the profession for whom the concept of drug prescription was an anathema), the BCA Council reconsidered its views at a meeting on 20th February 2013 (even although, four years on, the matter had yet to be considered by the GCC). The meeting saw the BCA Council unanimously deciding to support Richard Brown's new stance. Richard Brown explained that, whilst there were some benefits in acquiring limited prescribing rights (which the BCA welcomed as recently as July 2012), there were major issues of regulation, practicality and competence that would need to be overcome, and he believed that the BCA and its members should continue to strive to position chiropractic "in its role as the non-surgical experts in the treatment of MSK (musculoskeletal) conditions". In support of his U-turn, Richard Brown cited the New Zealand Commission of Inquiry's 1979 report, Chiropractic in New Zealand:

"25. As we have seen, much is made by chiropractors of the drugless and non-surgical nature of their therapy. But modern chiropractors do not suggest that there is only one cause of disease; they admit there are limits to their expertise; and they acknowledge the need for medical intervention and medical monitoring. They do, however, place emphasis on the body's natural functioning and its natural recuperative powers.

26. In these matters of emphasis we see some value in the contribution that the chiropractic outlook can make to healthcare generally. There cannot be any fundamental objection to an attitude to healthcare which restricts drugs to cases where they are shown to be a matter of necessity rather than a matter of mere convenience. Nor can it seriously be suggested that anyone is unreasonable to believe that it is better for the body's disorders to be relieved if possible, by natural rather than artificial or chemical means."

At a closed meeting on the 8th August 2013, the GCC finally considered the BCA's 2009 request that it approach the MHRA seeking limited prescribing rights for chiropractors. All four UK associations had submitted their thoughts on the issue, three of whom had been against seeking limited prescribing rights from the start. The GCC decided that to endorse or lead the call for limited prescribing rights for chiropractors was not the role of the regulator, and concluded that any application to the Department of Health must come from the profession as represented by the associations. In the end, the subluxation-based (vitalistic) Alliance of UK Chiropractors (AUKC), composed of the Scottish Chiropractic Association, the United Chiropractic Association, and the McTimoney Chiropractic Association, who claim to represent the majority of chiropractors in the UK, admitted on the 2nd September 2013 to playing a key role in blocking the BCA's original 2009 application.  Click here and here to learn more about the AUKC.