Cancer: Alternative Therapy Regulation

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons on 1st September 2020.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What plans he has to introduce additional regulations for practitioners of alternative therapies for cancer treatment.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Government are clear that we will do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable. We will not tolerate the false advertising of alternative cancer treatments. It is dangerous, but it is also cruel, and we will ensure penalties are handed out for any breaches of the law. While there are no plans to bring complementary therapies into regulation at present, many are registered on voluntary registers accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, ensuring patients can access safe care.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

My constituent Linda died of untreated breast cancer after she had been seduced, we believe, by advertising on the internet offering alternative therapies such as scans and pastes that were actually caustic to her body. She died alone in my constituency some months ago. Will the Minister consider bringing in tough restrictions on advertising on the internet, particularly as people are accessing internet therapies more now, and also tough restrictions on the people who practise these bogus therapies?

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I thank the hon. Gentleman. I was really saddened to hear of the death of his constituent, and fully agree that we must protect people who are often so desperate to find something that will help them and give them hope of recovery. Under the Cancer Act 1939, all advertising of cancer services and treatments is prohibited wherever advertised—online or in the paper—including complementary or alternative services and treatments that purport to be able to cure cancer. We know the role that the internet can play in spreading harmful messages about alternative treatments. It is dangerous, and I have discussed the issue in its broadest sense with my Digital, Culture, Media and Sport colleagues. I give him an assurance that we are committed, across Government, to taking any further action needed. He knows that my door is always open, and I would be happy to continue this conversation at any point.