The present state of requirements to become an acupuncturist in NZ
Currently, acupuncture is not a registered health profession under HPCAA. Instead, the acupuncture industry is self-regulated. Currently one does not need any formal qualification to practice in NZ. If you have seen acupuncture on TV, you can probably start practising. Except if you are a registered healthcare provider of a profession that is registered under HPCAA. If this is the case, you’re bound by the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act. And your actions may be in breach of the patients’ rights. Here is an example of an osteopath who got in trouble for practising acupuncture without being qualified.
There are a few organisations offering voluntary membership for acupuncturists including Acupuncture NZ (formerly New Zealand Register of Acupuncture Incorporated) and New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority Incorporated. Membership in either of these organisations is voluntary and allows its members to become ACC acupuncture providers. Currently, neither of the organisations has an authority to register an acupuncture practitioner as a health care provider under the HPCA Act, even though their names may imply the opposite.
Your local council may have some regulation regarding practising acupuncture, but they will not check your qualification.
* I’m not a lawyer. Laws and rules can change. Please seek legal advice before practising acupuncture in NZ.
What will happen when acupuncture is registered?
Once acupuncturists are regulated and required to be registered, the required standard for acupuncturists in New Zealand should significantly improve.
My patients tell me, that in New Zealand, there is a multitude of acupuncturists who are less than fluent in English. My view is unless there is adequate interpreter provided, these practitioners violate the patients’ Right to Effective Communication. It may become illegal for these acupuncturists to practice acupuncture under the new law.
The new registration and regulation of acupuncture under the HPCA Act to ensure that:
- acupuncturists have the right qualifications to provide their services
- maintain and develop acupuncture skills and competence
- acupuncturist are physically and mentally able to work
When will acupuncture be regulated?
Unfortunately, we don’t know how long it will take for acupuncture to get a status of registered health profession under HPCAA. Currently, registration looks close, but we have been here before. It may take anywhere between a few months and decades before it is regulated.
Regulation Update (10 June 2010):
From NZ Register of Acupuncture newsletter: ”
…we have been asked to reapply for regulation under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act. Although Acupuncture was approved in 2007, the subsequent review and the recommendations which came out of the review have meant that we need to resubmit our application to show that we meet the new criteria… “
Unfortunately, acupuncture regulation is delayed again!
Registration update (4 November 2011)
From NZ Acupuncture Standards Authority newsletter: *no decision about regulation will be made this year*, and further information has been called for regarding blended authorities. The Minister has clearly stated that no new Boards/Councils will be established, and therefore Chinese Medicine must be blended into an existing HPCA registration Board or Council.
This means that a current HPCA Board/Council will have to agree to host Chinese Medicine. This agreement will form part of the advice given to the Minister of Health.
Once the Ministry has completed its processes, the final decision regarding regulation is in the hands of the Minister of Health, regardless of the advice and recommendation from the Ministry of Health team.
Update (9th of May 2017):
Chinese Medicine professional bodies in NZ, including NZASA and AcNZ, have been meeting with Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) to discuss regulation of Chinese Medicine under the HPCA Act 2003.
These contacts culminated in a meeting on 14th March 2017 with Professor Des Gorman (Chair) and Janis Freegard (Principal Advisor) from Health Workforce New Zealand. The outcome of this meeting was a clear pathway for the profession, outlining the next steps to be covered in this journey. The Minister of Health has agreed in principle that CM should be regulated and that a Chinese Medicine Council of New Zealand (CMCNZ) should be established under the host Responsible Authority of the Medical Council of NZ (MCNZ).
Subsequently, the profession submitted a comprehensive cost analysis to show the Minister of Health that the profession is able to afford this undertaking. This document is a conceptual estimate of the cost to convene a Council and an indication of the costing of the first year of operation. The costing showed that regulation will not be an expensive exercise and that it is well within the means of the profession. These setup costs will be shared as a one off set up levy per practitioner of approximately $110-$120, separate to APC costs. This levy is based on a total profession number of around 970- 1000 CM practitioners. These estimates are subject to change; however, they do provide useful guidelines about set up costs to be paid by each member of the profession.
The CM representatives group has also provided a proposed list of protected titles to HWNZ. These titles – once approved – will ONLY be able to legally used by practitioners registered under the proposed regulatory CM Council.
The parliamentary process to be followed is stringent and will largely be handled by HWNZ. HWNZ will now prepare a formal recommendation for the Minister that CM be included under the HPCA Act. HWNZ will consult with different ministries such as Treasury and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment to ensure all is in order before the recommendation is presented to Cabinet. Provided Cabinet agrees, an Order in Council will be written up, signed off by the Governor General and tabled in parliament.
The Minister will then call for nominations to the CM Council. Five practitioners and two lay persons will be appointed by the Minister. A Registrar (or Registrars) will be appointed and the new CM Council will then start the process of establishing standards, competencies, code of ethics, APC fees, scopes of practice etc.
This process is likely to take up to twelve months to complete. If all goes well the new CM Council should be able to be accepting registrations for the following financial year.
Acupuncture Regulation update 21 February 2018:
Professor Des Gorman (Executive Chair, HWNZ) sent a letter to Chinese Medicine representatives with an update:
I recently had a positive meeting with the new Minister of Health Hon David Clark.
He has confirmed that the process of regulating Chinese medicine under the HPCA Act 2003 will continue. This is good news for the profession.
Health Workforce New Zealand is continuing with the legislative and organisational requirements for regulation. This consultative process takes time and formal government agreement will still be required before arrangements can be finalised.
See the letter here: 21 February 2018 Chinese Medicine Profession