In the Report, the House of Lords divided therapies into three groups, with Group 1 being ‘professionally organized alternative therapies’, including Osteopathy and Chiropractic, Group 2 including ‘complementary therapies’ (and Bowen), and Group 3 being ‘alternative disciplines’, including Ayurvedic Traditional Chinese Medicine.
One of the key recommendations of the report was:
"in order to protect the public, professions with more than one regulatory body make a concerted effort to bring their various bodies together and to develop a clear professional structure. The interests of the public in their use of CAM will be best served by improved regulatory structures for many of the professions concerned. Although there is evidence of progress across many fronts, the Committee found considerable diversity of standards, with an unacceptable fragmentation in some therapies, especially in Groups 2 and 3. In the best interests of their patients such therapies must each strive to unite under a single voluntary regulatory body with the features we highlight".
The Forum comprises representatives from the three main associations of Bowen Therapists in the UK : BA(UK), the Bowen Therapists’ European Register (BTER) and the Bowen Practitioners’ Association (BPA).
The Forum works with The Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health (POWFIH), which supports the complementary healthcare professions in developing nationally recognized standards of education and training. Over the last year, things have been moving fairly slowly, partly because POWFIH had come to the end of their grant, and were unsure of their future funding. Two of our contacts also left the organisation during the period, which meant that we suffered from a lack of continuity. However, we did have a very useful meeting with them last August, at which they were able to give us a clearer idea of where we are heading, and we are now meeting regularly with them.
The Bowen Forum is not going to be the body which regulates Bowen, but is the organisation which is going to set up that regulatory body (which I shall refer to as ‘The Bowen Council’). The Forum will do all the hard work of drafting the constitution for the Council, setting the framework under which it will operate, agreeing National Occupational Standards and the Core Curriculum, and then once The Bowen Council is established, the Forum will probably drop out of the picture.
The Bowen Council will have professional and lay members, and will hold the single national register of practitioners. It will be the body which represents Bowen to and for the general public, and which sets and maintains the standards that therapists and training schools are expected to meet. The different representative bodies, BA(UK), BPA and BTER will continue with their vital roles of promoting Bowen, and providing professional support and advice to their members.
The Bowen Council would be expected to have the following four main committees:
Obviously, setting up and running The Bowen Council will incur a significant amount of cost, although voluntary self-regulation is a cheaper option than statutory regulation. There are some grants available, but the remaining cost will have to be picked up by the registered practitioners. This may not be popular, but it is essential for our profession that we proceed towards voluntary self-regulation. The alternative is that, with an increasing focus on safety in all aspects of public health, unregulated therapists might find it harder to obtain insurance, and they might even not be entitled to practice in future. This message needs to be passed on to all students training in Bowen, to make sure that they keep up their membership of an association.
The Bowen Forum now has a draft constitution, and we aim to have this finalized in the next couple of months. It also now has a bank account with HSBC, which took ages to set up. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we need to draft and agree the following additional documents:
The member associations already have many of these documents for themselves, but they will have to be adapted for use by a regulatory body. Clearly, the accreditation of Bowen in Australia is a useful step, and there may be some relevant experience that we can draw on in developing NOS. However, the accreditation of a course is a very different process from the regulation of a therapy.
POWFIH finally had news from the Department of Health this year that it would be awarded a £900,000 grant over 3 years for its ongoing work in supporting the regulation of complementary healthcare. This money will be used to fund Phase 2 of their work, which will focus on ten of the main complementary professions. The Bowen Forum has applied to be considered for this phase, and if chosen, we will receive an annual grant of £3,000 - £5,000. Our application will also be fast-tracked, with the aim of setting up the regulatory body by 31 July 2007 . Bowen is certainly not one of the therapies that is furthest forward in the process, and if we were selected, we might find it difficult to meet the target. However, we were encouraged to apply, and we will hear whether we have been chosen by 31 July this year.
One of POWFIH’s roles is to recruit Independent Chairpersons to work with the developing regulatory bodies. Their role is to encourage unified working within each complementary profession, to promote good practice, and to keep progress on track. The Foundation arranges meetings with the Independent Chairs on a quarterly basis, to provide training, and to monitor progress.
I am pleased to announce that The Bowen Forum has recently appointed an Independent Chair to work with us. She is Jenny Gordon, a qualified nurse, with diplomas in reflexology and aromatherapy and a BSc in Complementary Therapies. She is currently completing some post-graduate research, and has plenty of experience of chairing groups. We were all very impressed by her experience and enthusiasm when we met her, and believe that she is the right person to move us forward.
Now that we have an Independent Chair, I expect the next twelve months to be a very busy period for the Forum, whether or not we are chosen to be fast-tracked.
In the last couple of weeks, the Forum has also been approached by an organisation called ‘Skills for Health’ (SFH), which has been appointed by the Government to be the Sector Skills Council for health across the UK . SFH has obtained a grant to work with The Bowen Forum in developing National Occupational Standards for Bowen practitioners. This involves about 8 months of work with a working party of practitioners, to develop consultation drafts which all therapists will have a chance to comment on. We are currently seeking volunteers to be part of that working party.