UK Chiropractic History

Chiropractic has been practised in the United Kingdom for nearly a century; the British Chiropractic Association was established in 1925 and remains the largest and longest-standing association for chiropractors in the UK. Chiropractic was an unregulated profession until the establishment of the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) in 2000. From small beginnings, the number of registered chiropractors in the UK has risen to 3,200.


Funding of chiropractic treatment

Chiropractors do not, as a rule, work in the NHS, either as employees or contractors. There is a relatively small amount of work done for NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) under the Any Qualified Provider (AQP) rules, but the vast majority of patients who see chiropractors are self-funding. NHS Choices has more information about chiropractic. Most health insurance companies offer chiropractic treatment cover.

The chiropractic landscape in the UK consists of the following:

  • The regulator
  • The education providers
  • The professional associations
  • The Royal College of Chiropractors
  • The Chiropractic Patients Association
  • The Chiropractic Research Council


The Regulator

The Regulator for the profession is the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) . It regulates all chiropractors in the UK to ensure the safety of patients undergoing chiropractic treatment.

Established under an Act of Parliament (The Chiropractors’ Act, 1994), its remit is, “to provide for the regulation of the chiropractic profession, including making provision as to the registration of chiropractors and as to their professional education and conduct”. The Act protects the health and safety of the public by ensuring high standards of practice in the chiropractic profession.

The title of ‘chiropractor’ is protected by law and it is a criminal offence for anyone to describe themselves as a chiropractor without being registered with the GCC. Every year chiropractors need to renew their registration with the GCC and have to provide evidence of having undertaken the appropriate amount and quality of Continuing Professional Development. The GCC has the power to admonish, place sanctions or, in extreme cases, erase a chiropractor from its list of registrants, if they have fallen short of their professional standards.

The GCC also approves chiropractic degree programmes. (read more here)


The Education Providers

Currently there are five education institutions offering chiropractic undergraduate degree programmes in the UK. These programmes are approved by the GCC:

  • AECC University College (AECC)
  • Welsh Institute of Chiropractic (WIOC), University of South Wales
  • McTimoney College of Chiropractic (MCC)
  • London South Bank University (LSBU) (GCC approval pending)
  • Teesside University

All institutions, but especially AECC have a significant number of students who are from overseas. Estimates suggest that approximately half the students return to their native country upon graduation. This is partly contributing to the lack of growth within the UK profession

AECC, WIOC and MCC are accredited by the European Council on Chiropractic Education (ECCE).

Read more about these universities here: Chiropractic Training.


The Professional Associations

The UK profession has four membership bodies:

  • The British Chiropractic Association (BCA)
  • The McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA)
  • The Scottish Chiropractic Association (SCA)
  • The United Chiropractic Association (UCA)

The professional associations offer a range of similar services to their members, the main one being indemnity insurance which is a pre-requisite to be a registrant member of the GCC. Without this insurance, a chiropractor cannot practice. Other services vary by association but include a complaints assisting service, PR campaigns, conferences, CPD as well as dealing with stakeholders e.g., government, insurance companies, GCC etc.


BCA Logo


The British Chiropractic Association

The BCA is the oldest association and has the largest membership with approximately half the profession as its members. Established in 1925, it is the only UK association which is a member of the European Chiropractors Union (ECU) and the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC). The BCA was a founder member of the ECU.

Further information on the profession in Europe can be found here

The BCA only accepts members from chiropractors who have graduated from ECCE accredited institutions.



The McTimoney Chiropractic Association

Membership of the MCA is open to any UK registered chiropractor as well as overseas membership. The MCA has been in existence for over 35 years.



The Scottish Chiropractic Association

The SCA was formed in 1979 and has since grown rapidly. There are now more than 60 members practising in Scotland and over 120 associated members located in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and various other countries around the world.


UCA logo


The United Chiropractic Association

The UCA was set up in the year 2000 to represent chiropractors who believe the subluxation based wellness paradigm.


The MCA, SCA and the UCA are relatively more “vitalist” in their practice philosophy than the BCA. It is not a case of either/or but a sliding scale of vitalism. However all chiropractors are in the main, spinal care experts.


The Royal College

The Royal College of Chiropractors (RCC) is a Royal Chartered academic membership organisation and registered charity promoting professional excellence, quality and safety in chiropractic. It has over 2,800 members worldwide and has a similar role to the Medical Royal Colleges in terms of promoting standards for practice quality, running postgraduate training for new graduates, providing continuing professional development opportunities and supporting research.

Its objectives are to:

  • promote the art, science and practice of chiropractic;
  • improve and maintain standards in the practice of chiropractic for the benefit of the public;
  • promote awareness and understanding of chiropractic amongst medical practitioners and other healthcare professionals and the public;
  • educate and train practitioners in the art, science and practice of chiropractic; and,
  • advance the study of and research in chiropractic.

The RCC runs the Post-Registration Training (PRT) programme, the UK’s Graduate Education Programme for recently-qualified chiropractors. New graduates do this during their first year in practice;  it helps ensure a smooth transition from the undergraduate setting to autonomous professional practice.

The BCA and MCA require and UCA encourages its members to do the PRT.


The Chiropractic Research Council

The Chiropractic Research Council (CRC), a registered charity, was established in 2013 to provide leadership and unity in chiropractic research. The CRC aims to increase the chiropractic evidence base, by promoting research, increasing the research capacity and supporting researchers. It will also raise the profile of research relevant to the practice of chiropractic.

The CRC is concerned with advancing chiropractic research for the benefit of patients. It does this by educating chiropractors and the public and by promoting and protecting the biopsychosocial health of sufferers of musculoskeletal conditions. Members of the BCA have demonstrated their financial commitment to supporting research with the UK’s first charity dedicated to supporting research into chiropractic care.


Chiropractic Patients Association

The Chiropractic Patients Association (CPA) raises funds to support chiropractic research in order to advance knowledge, such that patients benefit both in treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare. It is a patient association and therefore represents patient and their interests. The CPA is a charity and relies entirely on donations and members subscriptions.

Since its formation in 1966, the Chiropractic Patients’ Association (CPA) has played a significant role in the development of the profession in the UK. The CPA is the only body representing patient interests to the GCC.