IFA Lobbying & Campaigning Activities
Despite a year filled with huge challenges for our field, due to Covid 19, the last 12 months has seen the IFA go from strength to strength and become the voice for our field.
At the IFA we are constantly battling the terminology surrounding how aromatherapists are coined as an essential part of the healthcare workforce. This all-forms part of a greater picture to encourage the government to recognise aromatherapy as a key therapeutic intervention in healthcare and becoming statutory regulated. Our aim is for more equitable access to aromatherapy for the general public and where appropriate, both within the NHS and outside. To represent our members interests before decision-making bodies and to strengthen the recognition of aromatherapy as a true complementary modality, we are also part of the PSA Collaborative working group - a community committed to high standards within health and social care. Collectively, we addressed the powers that be in regard to the fact that aromatherapists are being grouped under ‘massage parlour’ rather than health worker, which limits and restricts the potential for members to practice during the pandemic with considerable success. The PSA’s colleagues within the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have highlighted the potential for misunderstanding on this issue and is pushing for other divisions within Government such as BEIS to be made aware and to look to clarify this terminology issue going forward.
In many respects the pandemic has been a springboard for the IFA to reinforce the importance of aromatherapy and how the strict protocols our therapists follow can break the chain of infection. The IFA have also stressed at both local council and national level, that the government should embrace aromatherapy to ease the mounting burden being placed on the NHS. We detailed our portfolio of charity projects integrating aromatherapy into various hospital and hospice settings, research available and drew attention to various healthcare charities and NHS hospitals that refer to the IFA due to our high standards of training and regulation. We have raised key health issues affecting the country, discussed how these should be addressed, as well as proposing solutions to improve patient care. The IFA has also been chosen to consult the Heads of NHS Complementary Therapies Services within the greater London area regarding the use of aromatherapy oils with patients with primary brain tumours or patients with brain metastases guidelines set to be published later this year. After several requests, we have also written guidance in the principles for aromatherapists working in health and care settings, which has been circulated.
The IFA have demonstrated that our field can work effectively and safely during the pandemic. Patients and GPs need to be assured as to the competence and safety of practitioners, particularly now, when choosing or referring to the services of a professional Aromatherapist and Professional Standards Authority (PSA) accreditation of the IFA register provides external assurance that IFA registered Aromatherapists meet the highest standard. So, if any of your clients are a little nervous about coming to see you during these uncertain times, you can tell them that you are IFA registered and explain what that means in terms of safety and high standards of care and that PSA accredited therapists are referred to by the NHS. Our accredited status with the PSA has meant our therapists have been able to continue to practise during the pandemic and received priority for the vaccine as they are recognised by the government as healthcare workers under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Furthermore, you can be proud and reassured that you are part of a trusted organisation that has been rigorously assessed to gain this kite mark which only the elite few have achieved.
Our core membership of the Integrative Healthcare Collaborative (IHC), who have just celebrated their one-year anniversary, has meant we have as a collective taken up issues with governments across the UK to get clarity for therapists about the ever-changing legislation and regulations, often when our field has been marginalised and ignored. We have fought for assistance when our practitioners have had to stop work in various regions and faced financial hardship. We have, throughout, emphasised the pivotal contribution that our practitioners can bring to patients’ health and wellbeing.
Another issue we recently tackled which was highlighted as part of our PSA annual renewal is how you can describe aromatherapy in compliance with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Essentially any claim or mention of a medical condition in relation to aromatherapy regardless of whether you use the words “helps” “alleviates” “assists” etc is deemed as going against the codes and viewed as indicating it could treat those conditions irrespective of the level of evidence held in support because such a claim could be seen as discouraging essential medical treatment (their words). However, after consultation with the ASA and submitting various types of evidence and rationale, we did manage to confirm that IFA Aromatherapists (only) can state that it provides a relaxing and calming effect for those suffering with mental health problems, dementia and those receiving palliative care and as a result, it is also used in a variety of settings, including hospitals and hospices. Our registrants can also say when combined with massage it helps ease body stress, muscle aches and potentially aid sleep – the specifics can be found in the members area.
Aromatherapy Awareness Week campaign 2020, was a notable success and received a huge level of response from the public with our shelves emptied of back issues of the Aromatherapy Times magazine. Notably, during the pandemic more research evidencing essential oils and their antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties emerged which resulted in an upsurge in enquiries into the IFA office. With the restrictions being as they were it was difficult for therapists to engage as much as they normally would and for us, we missed being on the road and visiting care homes. On social platforms, however the week even got a mention by the Department for International Trade. The Galway Hospice Foundation and West Middlesex Hospital marked the week by providing aromatherapy materials in the reception and providing literature to colleague's, patients, and families. Other individual therapists globally marked it in several ways by providing interviews, giving lecturers, wrote blogs, included in newsletters etc – so although a different week for us it still a marked success.
Every issue and campaign that we take forward makes our voice that much louder. As we move forward, we will continue to work together on issues of concern and work on common areas of interest, make the case for increasing access to complementary therapies with our PSA Collaborative and IHC colleagues, and promote greater integration with conventional Western medicine to improve patient choices and outcomes within our healthcare system.
For more information
The IFA is widely regarded as the most diverse and ambitious bringing together of aromatherapists in the world. If you would like to learn more about the charity work of the IFA please click here and for information about our ongoing campaign for aromatherapy to be more recognised and utilised within the NHS to improve the care available and reduce the pressure on staff click here.