A Ministry of Health announcement that Chinese medicine is to be included under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (HPCA) is welcome news to Whanganui acupuncturists.
Jason Zhang, who runs his practice with his wife Jessica Yuan and their fellow practitioner Ran Liu, said it was a first step in fully integrating acupuncture into the New Zealand health system.
"It has been a long time coming, and now it will give us peace of mind that our profession can be regulated under the Act," he said.
"As doctors in China, my wife and I used acupuncture as part of our practice at the hospital and it will be good to see it integrated here."
Although the acupuncture profession was awarded recognition under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (HPCA) Act in 2007, the recognition was withdrawn in 2010 and the profession was advised that it must reapply for recognition under the HPCA Act using the new and revised criteria.
The New Zealand professional body Acupuncture NZ has been lobbying for recognition under the Act for over a decade and president Robin Kerr said the Government decision announced this week is very welcome.
"Inclusion under the Act will provide greater assurance of safety and competence for the public of New Zealand," she said.
It will support patient-centered practice through stronger collaboration with GPs and other health providers as recommended by the Health and Safety Review 2020".
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Kerr said the decision brings the more than 1200 practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine into line with other allied health professionals in New Zealand and with colleagues in Australia.
"Increasingly, both here in New Zealand and overseas, it is playing an important role in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, both in private clinics and within the hospital setting.
"Many oncology units in American hospitals now include an acupuncturist on their staff as it is invaluable in reducing side effects which may be experienced from radiology or chemotherapy. Acupuncture has repeatedly been demonstrated to improve quality of life outcomes for many conditions."
The recognition of Chinese medicine comes at a time when the healthcare system in New Zealand is undergoing major changes as a result of the Health and Disabilities Service review 2020.
"There is already growing public and professional recognition of the wide range of health benefits of Chinese medicine," Kerr said.
"With a history of many thousands of years and backed by recent and robust science, Chinese Medicine and acupuncture practitioners are now set to become recognised, regulated health professionals."
The new Responsible Authority (RA) will be known as the Chinese Medicine Council of New Zealand.