Leading TCM professionals have urged practitioners to pay more attention to improving the quality of the services they provide, even as the road ahead seems to be filled with potholes.
Mei Man-fong, vice-chairman of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies and founder of the AcuMedic Centre, has come down heavily on those who are attempting to “commercialize” the TCM sector.
“The biggest trouble is that many businessmen think TCM is a goose that lays golden eggs,” he says. “It is these kind of people who are jeopardizing the sector’s image,” he says.
His call comes close on the heels of an EU directive on herbal medicines and the British government’s plan to register all TCM practitioners with the Health Professions Council (HPC).
Though getting legal status is good for practitioners, it is not the lack of public recognition that is the root cause for the EU directive, he says.
Mei opened AcuMedic, the biggest TCM Centre in the UK in 1972 in north London’s Camden High Street and soon had celebrities like the late Princess Diana as its patients.
The Diana wave, however, also propelled a flurry of businessmen to set up TCM shops to cash in on the boom.
“A lot of Chinese herbal medicine shops opened. They opened chains; they were called Chinese herbal McDonald’s. I was against such a development because I think medicine is about people’s health,” Mei says.
By current estimates there are around 2,000 TCM clinics in the UK.
“You can’t start opening McDonald’s-style chains. Although it is just herbal medicine dispensation, there is a method of doing it and it follows certain set procedures. If these are not adhered to the products could endanger people’s health,” he says.
Mei says that these chains have sullied the TCM image as quite a few medical accidents happened in late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Media perception about TCM has also turned from hot to cold, and then to critical,” he says.
Mei says that the HPC registration scheme means qualified TCM practitioners will gain legal status. It also means Britain will start to “recognize TCM as a medical science”.
“There’s no prospect being in ‘alternative medicine’ forever,” Mei says, adding that he hopes TCM would soon be integrated into mainstream medicine. But for that to happen “it is important that practitioners improve their quality of service and delivery,” he says.