IFPA Code of Practice

The aim of the IFPA Code of Practice is to set out the basic, minimum standards, which the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA) expects its members to maintain.

Index to the IFPA Code of Practice:

  1. Introduction
  2. Consent
  3. Relationship with the client
  4. Practitioner Awareness
  5. Administration/Publicity
  6. Guidance for working with other Healthcare Professionals
  7. Guidelines for working in Hospitals

1. Introduction

1.1. Definition of Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the systematic, controlled use of essential oils to promote and enhance the health and well being of the individual.

1.2. Compliance with this Code of Practice is mandatory for members of the IFPA (excluding Friend members) who are subject to the Federation’s Disciplinary Procedure. It is the responsibility of the member to ensure that s/he is fully acquainted with the details of these requirements.

1.3. Breaches of this Code and formal complaints directed at any IFPA member at any level will be handled in accordance with the IFPA’s Disciplinary Procedure.

1.4. Complementary and alternative medicine is legal in Great Britain.

1.5. Since December 1991 doctors have been allowed to delegate treatment of patients to specialists, including complementary therapists such as aromatherapists, provided that:

  • the doctor remains in charge of the patient’s treatment and
  • the doctor is clinically accountable for the care offered by the complementary therapist.

1.6. Although the Government and orthodox medical policy often use the words ‘alternative’ and ‘complementary’ medicine it is clear that under their rules any member of the IFPA abiding by this Code of Practice and accepting delegation from a doctor is ‘complementary’. The term ‘complementary medicine’ makes no pretensions of replacing conventional medicine; it informs the public that aromatherapy cannot and does not ever exclude conventional medicine and orthodox healthcare practitioners from patient care and treatment.

2. Consent

2.1 Clients’ informed consent is essential prior to commencement of any treatment. It is recommended that practitioners obtain a signed consent form (by the client) at the initial consultation.

2.2 It is essential to explain the nature of any treatment you propose and its likely effects. Consent must be given voluntarily.

2.3 Consent is not a one-off event and should be sought as part of a process.

2.4 The law recognises that some clients, because of their age, illness or mental capacity cannot give consent to treatment. In such cases you must obtain clear written consent from someone authorized to give consent of behalf of the client.

2.5 If you decide you must discontinue treating a client, you must do all you can to help them find an alternative source of care.

3. Relationship with the Client

3.1 Members shall have respect for the religious, political and social situation and views of any individual irrespective of age, race, colour, creed or gender, and must never seek to impose their own beliefs on a client.

3.2 Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a honourable and courteous manner and with due diligence in their relations with their clients and the public. Proper moral conduct must always be paramount in the members’ relations with clients; they must behave with respect, courtesy, dignity, discretion and tact. Their attitude must be professional, competent, empathetic, realistic and supportive, thus encouraging uplift in the client’s outlook and belief in a progression towards good health practices.

3.3 The relationship between the practitioner and client is that of a professional with a client. The client places trust in a practitioner’s skill, care and integrity, and it is the practitioner’s duty to act with due diligence at all times and not to abuse this trust in any way.

3.4 Members must never claim to ‘cure’. The possible therapeutic benefits may be described but recovery must never be guaranteed.

3.5 When a client consults a member for the first time about a particular problem the client should be asked what medical advice they have received and the response entered in the client’s records. If the member later concludes that a client has another disorder they must be advised to consult a doctor. Since it is legal to refuse medical treatment, no client can be forced to consult a doctor. The advice must be recorded in the client’s records for the member’s own protection.

3.6 Before treatment, members must explain fully either in writing or verbally all the procedures involved in the treatment including such matters as the consultation process, the length of visits, fees etc.

3.7 Members must act with consideration concerning fees and justification for treatment. They should not be judgmental as clients are entitled to refuse treatment, ignore advice and make their own decisions on health, lifestyle and money.

3.8 Members and all those who work with them must not disclose or allow to be disclosed, any information about a client (including the fact of their attendance) to any third party, including members of the client’s family, without the client’s consent unless it is by due process of the law or for immediate protection of or avoidance of identifiable real risk to a third party, in which case the member is advised to obtain legal advice.

3.9 No third party, including assistants and members of the client’s family, may be present during the course of the consultation with an adult client without the client’s express consent. However, members working with children, severely disturbed clients or those of the opposite sex should give due consideration to the need to safeguard themselves by having a third party present in the treatment room or in the treatment premises.

3.10 At present, neither aromatherapy nor any other complementary therapy is approved as ‘medical aid’ under current UK law. It is a criminal offence for a parent or guardian not to seek medical aid for a child under the age of 16 years. Therefore the member should secure a signed and dated statement from a parent or guardian who refuses to seek medical aid as defined in law. The following format should be used:

I have been advised by (name of therapist) ……………………… that according to law I should consult a doctor concerning the health of my child (name child) ……………………………………

Signed ………………………………… (Parent or Guardian)

Signed by witness …………………… (Person witnessing)

Date ………………………

4 Practitioner Awareness

4.1 Practising members must ensure that their health and personal hygiene do not jeopardise the welfare or health and safety of their clients. Members must not eat, drink or smoke while at practice.

4.2 A member must not treat a client whose requirement exceeds the member’s capacity, training and competence. Where appropriate the member must seek referral to a more appropriately qualified person.

4.3 Diagnosis and treatment of an animal is only permitted in law under the supervision of or with the permission of a veterinary surgeon.

4.4 The rendering of emergency first aid to animals for the purpose of saving life or relieving pain is permissible. What constitutes an emergency must be a question for the judgement of the individual aromatherapist. The Protection of Animals Act 1971 lays down an obligation that if the animal clearly requires treatment by a veterinary surgeon the owner must be aware of this.

4.5 It is against the law for anyone other than a midwife or doctor, or one in training, to care for a woman who is in labour without medical supervision except in an emergency. Members must therefore not attend women in childbirth or treat them for ten days after parturition for reward unless they, or another healthcare professional, hold a midwifery qualification, or are working under the supervision of the obstetric team.

4.6 Members may treat clients at their own discretion in respect of the principle of autonomous practice and with due regard to the health and safety of the client and the practitioner. For example clients for whom clause 4.2 above is applicable. Other examples include:

  1. where informed consent may not be possible due to clients being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  2. where the health and safety of a client or therapist cannot be safeguarded as in the case of a notifiable disease.

4.7 Members must be wary of giving advice on skin and bodily ailments, diet etc., and must not presume specialist knowledge outside their own area of expertise unless their training and qualifications entitle them to do so, and they have appropriate insurance cover.

4.8 It is the responsibility of the practising aromatherapist to comply with local and national legislation with regard to the therapy undertaken. They should be fully aware of current laws that affect their practice such as the Data Protection Act, the Veterinary Surgeons Act, the Health and Safety Act, Disability Discrimination Act, pharmaceutical and cosmetic regulations, etc.

4.9 Notifiable Diseases It is a statutory requirement that certain infectious diseases are reported to the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in the district in which the client is living when the disease is diagnosed. In the UK the person responsible for notifying the MOH is the GP in charge of the case. If, therefore, a practising member suspects a client has such a disease, they should insist that the doctor is called in. Each Local Authority decides which diseases are notifiable in its area which means there will be variations, but it is assumed that the following diseases are notifiable in all areas of the UK:

Acute encephalitis Acute poliomyelitis Anthrax Cholera
Diphtheria Dysentery Food poisoning Leptospirosis
Malaria Measles Meningitis Meningococcal
Pneumococcal Haemophilus Influenzae Viral
Other specified Unspecified Meningococcal
(without meningitis)
Paratyphoid fever Plague Rabies
Relapsing fever Rubella Scarlet fever Smallpox
Tetanus Tuberculosis Typhoid fever Typhus fever
Viral haemorrhagic
Viral hepatitis Hepatitis A Hepatitis B
Hepatitis C Other Whooping cough Yellow fever

Leprosy is also notifiable, but to the Director, CDSC. Diseases notifiable (to Local Authority Proper Officers) under the Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations 1988

5 Administration/Publicity

5.1 Members must not use titles or descriptions to give the impression of medical or other qualifications unless they possess them. They must make it clear to their clients that they are not doctors etc, and do not purport to have their skills or knowledge.

5.2 Advertising must be dignified in tone and shall not contain testimonials or claim or cure for any disease. It should be confined to drawing attention to aromatherapy (or other therapy available), the qualifications of the member, and the offer of a general service together with the necessary details.

5.3 All practising members must ensure that their names appear on the IFPA Register of Qualified Aromatherapists. This confirms that they are fully qualified to practise and agree to abide by the Code of Conduct and Complaints and Disciplinary Procedures. Their membership of the IFPA and its address should be displayed in their place of practice.

5.4 Practising members must ensure they keep clear, comprehensive and dated records of their treatments and advice given. This is especially important for the defence of any negligence actions as well as for efficient and responsible practice.

Three criteria need to be met to validate consent:

  1. the consent must be voluntary,
  2. the client needs to have received enough information to make a decision,
  3. the client is competent, i.e. able, to give consent.

5.5 In order to be able to determine that any given treatment administered is appropriate and reasonable, it is the responsibility of the member to ensure that their client notes/records are sufficiently thorough and accurate so that they can demonstrate that the treatment was appropriate and was carried out safely and competently.

5.6 All practising IFPA members should provide clients with the contact details of the IFPA office if they wish to make a complaint.

6 Guidance for Working with Other Healthcare Professionals

6.1 Members should seek a good working relationship and work in a co-operative manner with other professionals, and recognise and respect their particular contribution within the healthcare team, irrespective of whether they perform from an allopathic, alternative or complementary base.

6.2 Liaison with the client’s doctor may increase better understanding between individual aromatherapists and their local doctors. Gradually, if contact can become established with a number of consultants in various spheres, eg dermatology, homeopathy, dietetics, reflexology, etc clients’ conditions may be greatly assisted, the standing of aromatherapy enhanced, and more satisfactory conclusions attained. Many doctors are co-operative when asked if they would be agreeable to making referrals, and every such liaison serves to strengthen the ideals which we wish to achieve. By lecturing to other professional bodies and by increasing contact, greater awareness of the aims and objectives of aromatherapy can be communicated.

6.3 Members of other healthcare professions remain subject to the general ethical codes and disciplinary procedures of their respective professions.

6.4 IFPA members must not countermand instructions or prescriptions given by a doctor.

6.5 Members must not advise a particular course of treatment such as to undergo an operation or to take specific drugs. It must be left to the client to make her/his own decisions in the light of medical advice.

6.6 Members must never give a medical diagnosis to a client in any circumstances, as this is the responsibility of the registered medical practitioner. However, it may be appropriate to encourage the client to visit their GP if the member has any concerns, and the member should clearly record this action.

7 Guidelines for Working in Hospitals

7.1 The hospital is responsible for the client.

7.2 Members may only treat clients in hospital at the client’s request and with the permission of the attending physician.

7.3 Practising members not employed by the hospital should not give the impression that they are a staff member. They must have some form of identification such as lapel badge acceptable to the hospital management.

7.4 Where permission is given to provide treatment on a ward, this must be without interference to other patients and ward staff.

7.5 If other hospital patients request treatment, the permission of the ward manager and, if relevant, the patient’s doctor must first be obtained.

7.6 Members must never undermine the client’s faith in a hospital’s treatment or regime.

7.7 When credentials are requested, members must produce their association’s current membership card or other proof of membership and evidence of permission to visit.

© 2009 International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists

82 Ashby Road
LE10 1SN

Telephone: 01455 637987
Fax: 01455 890956
E-mail: admin@ifparoma.org
Website: www.ifparoma.org

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