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Do I need to register with North Devon Council?

North Devon Council have adopted Part VIII of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, which covers the registration of various skin piercing activities. In addition, the council has made local bylaws under this legislation in relation to acupuncture.

Personal registration

Persons may not carry on the business of acupuncture in North Devon unless they are registered with North Devon Council.

The legislation does not extend to the practice of acupuncture, by or under the supervision of a person who is registered as a medical practitioner or a dentist or a premises on which the above is carried on by or under the supervision of such a person.

Premises registration

A person may only carry on the practice of acupuncture in North Devon in a premises registered with North Devon Council.

A person who is registered with the local authority to carry on the practice of acupuncture at their premises does not contravene the Act merely because he/she sometimes visits people at their request to give them acupuncture.

The applicant

When applying for a personal registration an applicant must demonstrate that they:

  • are competent in acupuncture and associated cleaning processes etc.
  • have high standards of personal hygiene
  • have knowledge of the risks associated with acupuncture i.e. blood borne infection
  • have knowledge of the required standards for premises in which they are to operate
  • understand the importance of gaining knowledge about the health of their clients
  • understand the benefits of record keeping

Applicants must state whether they hold previous convictions under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 or whether any previous registration issued to them has been cancelled.

Where an applicant’s registration has been previously cancelled by a court he/she shall not again be registered except with the consent of the magistrate’s court which convicted them.

Application process

To gain personal or premises registration for acupuncture, please complete an application form and return it with the appropriate fee to the Licensing team at the council.

When the application has been received, a licensing officer will contact the applicant within a period of 5 working days. If an officer has not been in contact within this period, please contact us to ensure that your application has been correctly made and received. If you have not heard anything, it does not mean that your registration has been completed, as usually further contact from an officer is required.

Depending on whether the application relates to a personal or premises registration, a licensing officer will contact you to arrange a convenient time and date to undertake either:

A short interview of the person to be registered in order to gain an idea of their experience and ability.

A premises inspection to ascertain the level of compliance with the council’s bylaws and following guidance.

On successful completion of your application and upon successful interview and/or premises inspection, North Devon Council will issue an applicant with a certificate of registration.

How long will it take to process my application?

The council will endeavour to issue your certificate of registration within a period of 30 working days, however if we have been unable to determine your application in this time a licence will not be automatically granted due to health and safety implications.

How long does a certificate of registration last?

Your certificate of registration for either yourself or your premises will last indefinitely and you are not required to renew your certificate at any stage.

What are the bylaws that are relevant to registration?

North Devon Council has adopted acupuncture bylaws WORD (1525 kB) logo - Word Document Logo PDF (26 kB) PDF logo for the purpose of securing:

  • the cleanliness of premises and their fittings
  • the cleanliness of registered persons and their assistants
  • the cleaning and where appropriate sterilisation of instruments, materials, and equipment used in connection with an acupuncture business

Guidance on acupuncture

The following notes are provided for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as an authoritative statement of the law. You are advised to refer to the relevant acts, regulations and above bylaws if you seek further clarification.

Consent of customer

If a client is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs he/she may not be able to understand fully the implications of his/her request for acupuncture and his/her request should be refused and documented.

If a youngster who appears to be under 16 years of age requests acupuncture, it is recommended that you ask how old he/she is and whether his/her parent(s) or guardian(s) know about it and is in agreement with his/her request.

Under 16s can consent to acupuncture if they fully understand what it is they are requesting and the potential consequences of the procedure, but it is preferable and advisable to have parental consent. If necessary, the request can be refused. Keeping a written record of the reported age, proof if any, the request and the clients understanding of the consequences may prove useful if there are complaints later on.

Use of needles

It is recommended that single use pre-sterilised disposable acupuncture needles are used to prevent any possibility of the same needles being used on more than one patient.

If the treatment for a single client spans more than one session then a reusable needle may be used for the complete treatment. It is imperative that the needle is accurately identified to the client, and that the possibility of the needle being used on more than one client is eliminated.

If using re-usable needles they  must be heat sterilised in an autoclave after use on the client. Before needles are autoclaved they must be cleaned of any blood, serum or tissue fragments which may prevent proper steam contact. This can be done preferably with an ultrasonic cleaner, or by placing the needles in a suitable dish, for example stainless steel kidney dish. The water should be at least 35ºC and detergent should be used, and then the equipment rinsed.

“Seven-Star” or “Plum-Blossom” cutaneous needles and “Three-Edged” bloodletting needles, if used, must be sterilised in an autoclave.

See the further information section below for details on where to gain advice on the specification, testing and maintenance of autoclaves.

Equipment used to contain or handle needles, for example kidney dishes, forceps must be sterile at the beginning of each session. These can be sterilised at the same time as the batch of needles.

After use on each client, needles and any other equipment should be placed in a suitable receptacle prior to cleaning and sterilisation.

Equipment used to hold or contain the used needles should be regarded as contaminated and treated in the same way.

Do not test needles on yourself. Test the needles on a damp piece of cotton wool held between forceps.

Do not use sharp or pointed instruments on or near areas of a clients skin that are not involved in the process.

Forceps must be sterilised between clients.

A needle can bend while still pierced in the body or if the patient suddenly changes his position. Bent needles must not be re-used.

If a needle breaks inside a client, the individual concerned should be referred to hospital as it is likely that a needle will need to be surgically removed via a medical practitioner and after an x-ray.

Skin preparation

The area of skin to be pierced should be clean. In addition those areas of the body where moisture or exudates may collect, such as the groin and genital area, ears, feet, under arms and the area below the breasts, near the mouth, nose, scalp and other hair-covered areas should be swabbed with 70% isopropyl alcohol or products which contain 0.5% chlorhexidine before needling. The alcohol offers advantages in this context as it leaves no residue and does not allow growth of organisms in the bottle or swab. The swab should be left in contact with the skin for at least 15 seconds, and the skin then allowed to dry for 30 seconds.

Use soothing creams from a tube, not a jar. The cream should be applied to the skin on a piece of fresh gauze and not directly with your fingers.

If the skin bruises or bleeds after the insertion of a needle, a small pad of dry cotton wool should be used to cover the area until the bleeding has stopped.

Personal hygiene

Clean washable clothing should be worn for example disposable apron.

Hands must be washed before and after direct contact with the client, and with items that have been in contact with the clients blood or other body fluids.

Use a new pair of disposable gloves for each client. Un-powdered nitrile gloves should be used rather than ones made from latex.

Keep any open boil, sore, cut or open wound on an exposed part of his body effectively covered by an impermeable dressing.

The operator shall not eat or smoke whilst giving treatment.

Health of client

The operator should be able to show knowledge of possible reasons for refusing to carry out acupuncture and should discuss with the client and ideally keep a written record of his or her medical history, covering whether there is history of:
  • heart disease
  • cellulitis
  • eczema
  • impetigo
  • allergic responses to e.g. anaesthetics, plasters, or jewellery metals such as nickel
  • haemorrhaging
  • fainting
  • epilepsy
  • diabetes
  • blood borne viral infection (eg Hepatitis B, C or HIV)

After care advice

It is recommended that written after care advice is provided for all clients.

Construction standards for premises

Floors, walls, screens, partitions and ceilings of any part of the premises used for acupuncture, should be of sound construction, smooth finish and capable of being easily cleaned and maintained clean.

Adequate and satisfactory ventilation must be provided along with suitable and sufficient general and local illumination.

Table tops, other surfaces and shelves must have smooth impervious surfaces, such as plastic laminate, and must be in good repair.

The surface of the couch or chair should have a smooth impervious surface, such as vinyl, and be in good repair.

The room used for treatment should be for treatment only.

Equipment must be kept in good repair and maintained as specified by the manufacturer. Records of maintenance will need to be kept.

Maintenance of the electrical system, from the Consumer board to all appliances, is specifically required.

Washing facilities

A wash-hand basin having an adequate constant supply of hot and cold water shall be provided at a point conveniently accessible to the operating area. It is recommended the basin shall be fitted with foot or elbow operated taps.

Soap and disposable paper towels must be available and accessible. Hot air hand dryers are not acceptable, neither are re-usable fabric towels.


It is important for practitioners to keep records of their patients and customers. Scrupulous records prove valuable if there is any question of an infection problem later.

Records should contain the name and address of each customer and the date the treatment was given.

Records should be kept for a minimum of two years.

A person registered for acupuncture shall keep a copy of any certificate of registration issued to him and the North Devon Council bylaws prominently displayed at the place where he carries on that practice or business.

Waste material

Any waste likely to be contaminated with body fluids (with the exception of syringes, needles and scalpel blades) must be collected in approved yellow sealable, leak proof waste bags marked "BIOHAZARD, CLINICAL WASTE ONLY. TO BE INCINERATED”.

After removal from the patient needles must be placed in an approved yellow plastic sharps box for disposal. The box should be clearly marked “DANGER, CONTAMINATED SHARPS ONLY. TO BE INCINERATED”.

Both these type of wastes (known as clinical waste) must be collected by a competent contractor, licensed by the County Council, for incineration.

You should contact our waste and recycling team on 01271 374776 or 01271 340391 for advice if you have difficulty in arranging a suitable clinical waste collection.

Waste matter not contaminated by blood or body fluids should be disposed of in a suitable receptacle lined with a leak proof sealable plastic bag and provided with a close fitting lid.

Rights of entry

An authorised officer of North Devon Council may when in possession of a warrant enter premises in the area of North Devon if he/she has reason to suspect that an offence is being committed.

Offences and penalties

Any person who without reasonable excuse refuses to allow an authorised officer (in possession of a warrant) entry shall be guilty of an offence and shall for every such refusal be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1000).

Any person who contravenes any of North Devon Council’s acupuncture bylaw’s shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1000).

If a registered practitioners of acupuncture are found guilty of an offence under a bylaw a court may instead or in addition to imposing a fine, order the suspension or cancellation of his registration.

A court which orders the suspension or cancellation of an acupuncture registration may also order the suspension or cancellation of any registration of the premises in which the offence was committed, if they are occupied by the person found guilty of the offence.

A court ordering the suspension or cancellation of a personal registration may suspend the operation of the order until the expiration of the period prescribed by Crown Court rules for giving notice of appeal to the Crown Court.

Right of appeal

Any person aggrieved by a refusal to be granted registration or by any conditions to which registration is subject may appeal to the Magistrates Court who may give such directions regarding the registration or its conditions as it thinks proper.

Application forms

Application for the Registration to carry on the practice of Acupuncture, business of Tattooing, Ear Piercing or Electrolysis (word 106kB logo - Word Document Logo)

Application for the Registration to carry on the practice of Acupuncture, business of Tattooing, Ear Piercing or Electrolysis (pdf 28kB PDF logo)

Online application External link

Online - notify us of a change of circumstances External link

logo - EU-GO portal

EUGO Portal


A completed application must be submitted with a fee of £66.40 for each registration of premises or persons.

Public register

The Acupuncture premises register contains details of those premises registered with North Devon Council.

Further information

Copies of Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and The Local Government Act 2003 can be purchased from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Although in relation to body piercing, this guidance adopts some of the same principles that should be applied to acupuncture.

The following publications may be of use:

Useful advice on the specification, testing and maintenance of autoclaves is available for purchase from:

The Medical Devices Agency
Business Services Department (Publications)
Hannibal House
Elephant and Castle
Telephone: 0207 972 8000

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Blood-borne viruses in the workplace: guidance for employers and employees. Health and Safety Executive.

‘A Guide to Hygienic Skin piercing’
Dr. Noah, P.H.L.S, C.D.S.C.
61 Colindale Avenue

‘Body Art, Cosmetic Therapies and Other Special Treatments', ISBN 1-902423-80-1
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Chadwick House Group Limited
Chadwick Court
15 Hatfields
Telephone: 020 7928 6006

‘Immunisation Against Infectious Disease’ (1996), HMSO, ISBN 0-11-321815-X
Department of Health.

Trade organisations

Hairdressing And Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA).
Fraser House
Nether Hall Road
Telephone: 01302 380000

The British Acupuncture Council
63 Jeddo Road
W12 9HQ
Telephone: 02087350400

The British Medical Acupuncture Society
BMAS House
3 Winnington Court
Telephone: 01606 786782


Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital
60 Great Ormond Street
Telephone: 020 7713 9437

Contact information

To contact the Customer Service Centre:

Telephone: 01271 388870
For Typetalk: precede with 18001
Text: 07624 804042
Fax: 01271 388451
Web form: send us a web enquiry
Join the conversation on Twitterexternal website
Compliment, complaint or suggestion? Your feedback

Our office hours are Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

Licence applications, notices etc should be sent to:

The Licensing Team
Environmental Health and Housing
North Devon Council
Civic Centre
North Walk
EX31 1EA

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