Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It gives me great pleasure to be with you today and to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of you.
It is over three years ago now since I spoke to some of you at my Foundation's seminar "Professional competence - Public confidence". A key message from that seminar was that people needed to feel confident that the treatment they received from any complementary practitioner would be safe....
Like conventional medicine, complementary medicine can only be safe if practised by a skilled, qualified practitioner; in unskilled hands it can be potentially harmful.
One of the key components to increasing public confidence must be effective, proportionate regulation.
Today's seminar makes, I think, the important link between regulation of complementary medicine and an integrated approach to healthcare. Regulation as we know, is first and foremost about protecting patients. However, it is also a pre-requisite for effective integrated working. I believe complementary medicine won't be taken as seriously without it.
Those in healthcare are increasingly working across professional boundaries. It is important that all healthcare professions learn to work more flexibly and collaboratively, respecting each other's traditions.
I am delighted by how much progress you have made and although you are all at very different stages, I am encouraged to hear that you are moving towards the establishment of single regulating bodies for each of the complementary therapies.
Without your, and your colleagues', commitment and dedication and also the very generous financial support from the King's Fund, this could not have happened.
It seems to me the progress that has been made is a sign of maturity within your professions and that complementary medicine is willing to be accountable and to accept responsibility - responsibility for the profession and for the public, but most of all for patients. But how do we translate your advances into real outcomes?
I think there is no one model. Integrated healthcare can take many forms; complementary practitioners working more closely with conventional practitioners, conventional practitioners practising complementary medicine, the private sector working with the public sector but, most importantly, a holistic approach to care designed to meet the needs of the patient on every level.
I understand that your guest speakers this morning talked about examples of integration in practice from their own perspectives as professionals working in this field.
And we have just heard from Sally Hornsby, describing most poignantly her own experiences as a patient making a very strong argument for better regulation of complementary medicine, thus enabling its integration with conventional medicine.
While considerable progress has been made, there is still, of course, a lot more work to be done. The issues involved are complex and need creative solutions.
You and your colleagues are being called upon to carry out work that could potentially help to revolutionise the healthcare system in this country. But this work requires perseverance, dedication and a willingness to find solutions to what at times must seem like dealing with insoluble problems and intractable people.
Continuing to work together in a spirit of collaboration is of the utmost importance. I am encouraged to hear that both herbal medicine and acupuncture, sponsored by my own Foundation and the Department of Health, have set up working groups to make proposals for the statutory regulation of their profession and that other therapies are uniting together to form voluntary systems of regulation for their profession.
I believe, too, that we have to challenge some of the perceptions about regulation and what that means. I know that there is a fear amongst some complementary practitioners that regulation will destroy that which is at the very heart of holistic healing - but I am convinced that this need not be the case.
Regulation does not have to be about restriction and restraint, and with careful construction it could lead to freedom and opportunity.
Now is the time to be creative and to develop regulatory structures that will empower and enhance the practice of complementary medicine within integrated settings.
By doing so, you will be building solid foundations for the growth and future sustainability of holistic and integrated healthcare in this country - hopefully by the time I shuffle off this mortal coil. That's unless I have been genetically modified or have somehow been revivified by the application of many of the therapies represented in this room!
Ladies and gentlemen, there are many challenges ahead but working together with my Foundation and others, I am convinced the opportunity is there to bring forward appropriate regulation.