HL Deb 23 June 1986 vol 477 cc1-2
Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will now consider giving mandatory grants for students wishing to study the natural therapies, as is the custom of some award-granting committees of county councils.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, there is no present intention to consider giving mandatory grants to students wishing to study the natural therapies.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that short and sharp Answer, may I ask him whether he will not agree that if the public is turning to natural therapies—there is an average increase of 15 per cent. every year—there should surely be some help for the many young people wishing to study these therapies? Is my noble friend aware that the turnover in relation to patients going to qualified practitioners of these natural therapies is something like £60 million a year?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, courses in natural therapies are too varied to be designated en bloc. Some are postgraduate and others sub-degree. Only those which are degree comparable qualify for designation. Unfortunately, it has been necessary for economic reasons to impose a moratium on new designations. This has made it impossible to designate the one natural therapy course—osteopathy—on behalf of which an application has so far been made.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, in view of the fact that there is now greater recognition within the DHSS of the value of natural therapies and a greater acceptance also by patients, is it not important that medical students should have some training in these alternative therapies, perhaps in the same way as the Chinese, who practise many of these therapies, are also required to study Western medicine? Is it not important that doctors being trained for the future should have some knowledge of these forms of treatment that are increasingly popular and accepted?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am sure that would be very well worth while, but that is very much a matter for those in charge of the courses for the doctors. This is a Question on mandatory grants, which is slightly different.

Lord Ferrier

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that this Question by my noble friend is a very important one? It pinpoints the anxiety which the noble Lord has just mentioned, about the whole problem of alternative therapies. Has the department of the noble Earl had time to study the report of the Board of Science Working Party on Alternative Therapy? Is he aware that it contains practically no reference to the steps which have been taken by chiropractors and osteopaths to train and qualify professional people for this purpose? In view of the fact that both the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and I have Motions down, will my noble friend agree that time should be made available for a full debate on this whole question of alternative complementary medicine? It is not alternative therapy, but complementary.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am sure that all Questions which are asked in your Lordships' House are important. That answers the first supplementary question of the noble Lord. I think I made it clear when I answered the supplementary question of my noble friend that the reasons these courses are not subject to a mandatory grant is not because they are considered unimportant but because they differ so much. As I said, some are post-degree and others are sub-degree. Subjects for debate are matters for the usual channels.

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