Bottomley urged to regulate 'New Age' alternative healers: MP wants code of practice to protect vulnerable patients

THE Secretary of State for Health, Virginia Bottomley, is being pressed to take action to regulate the booming 'New Age' alternative healing industry.

Jon Owen Jones, the Labour MP for Cardiff Central, has asked Mrs Bottomley if she will give details of how many complaints her department has received about psychic healers and hypnotherapists in each of the past 10 years and if she will introduce a code of practice.

Mr Jones predicts the figures will show a rising number of grievances about alternative healers and therapists who deal with vulnerable patients, who are often desperate, having tried traditional methods which have failed. Unlike their medical counterparts, alternative healers are completely unrestricted and unqualified.

His move has been prompted by a case involving a close relative of a constituent. The relative (Mr K) walked out on his wife and children after consulting a psychic healer.

In October 1990, Mr K began suffering agonising 'cluster' headaches, a condition caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. They are extremely difficult to treat and can often drive the patient to despair and even suicide.

Mr K, a solicitor, saw three NHS consultant neurologists before being referred to one of the country's acknowledged experts on cluster headaches, Nat Blau at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London. After trying various remedies without success, in April 1993, Dr Blau prescribed the powerful drug lithium.

The headaches continued, but thanks to 800mg of lithium a day they were not as bad. In May last year, Mr K was talking to a fellow lawyer, a well-known barrister, Mr W. The lawyer suggested Mr K consult his wife, a psychic healer and medium. Mrs W advised Mr K to stop taking the lithium. While he was on it, she argued, she was unable to help. In January this year, to assist with his withdrawal from the drug and to complete her course of treatment, he went to live away from his family, at the the barrister's flat in London.

Mr K went on sick leave, abandoned the lithium and turned to the help of the healer. Visits from his wife and their two children were forbidden. Shortly afterwards, Mr K went to live in the large house in rural Kent belonging to the barrister and his wife. Mrs W counselled him that to alleviate his suffering he needed to reach his 'highest good' - a state of mind that did not involve contact with his family, whom she felt had contributed to his condition.

Not only did Mr K virtually cease all contact with his family but his relatives allege, he also underwent a change in personality. His handwriting altered and he became abusive towards them. Mr K is still living with the barrister and his psychic healer wife and is filing for divorce. He is still thought to be suffering from his headaches.

His family called in Graham Baldwin, a director of Catalyst, a counselling group specialising in religious cults and possible situations of mind control.

Mr Baldwin said: 'What worries me are therapists and healers that have no code of ethics who come to a situation like this, tell the husband the cause of his problems are his wife. He then turns to them and starts to depend upon them.'

This phenomenon, know as 'transference' in psychotherapy, was especially alarming. 'In this case, for the healer to have him living in her house is clearly very worrying,' Mr Baldwin said.

In a written reply to Mr Jones, Tom Sackville, the health minister, said the Government had no plans to impose regulations: 'We do encourage voluntary regulation schemes that have an enforceable code of practice.'

But Mr Jones said: 'This is a growing problem which I believe is causing real anxiety and I will be pressing the Department of Health to change their policies.' Certain types of treatment, he argued, where patients were taken into healers' homes or split from their families, should be outlawed.

Mrs W refused to comment.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
Passing on: George Washington died alert, aware and in his own bed. This is the kind of of death most people would like to have
Life and Style

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Brendan Rodgers as a manager, writes Paul Scholes
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered

Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Financial Sales Executives

£19000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to our clients continuing s...

Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

£15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Internal Sales - Technical Solutions - £26,000 Basic

£26000 per annum: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Southend, Aldershot, Luto...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Manager - £30,000 - Manchester City Centre

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This forward-thinking agency works with ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game