Shiatsu & Private Healthcare Insurance

January 18th, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blog

Shiatsu & Private Healthcare Insurance


By Samantha Haywood



We are often asked why Shiatsu is not covered under private healthcare insurance schemes.

We regularly contact private insurers and ask for updates on their policies for CAM (complementary and alternative medicine).  The response we receive is usually the same from them all and that is commonly:

“We would not pay for Shiatsu because….

  • We do not pay for treatment which has not been established as being effective or which is experimental. We would refer to organisations such as the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).
  • The practitioner is not recognised with us for benefit purposes.
  • It is not treatment as defined in our glossary. Treatment definition: ‘surgical or medical services (including diagnostic tests) that are needed to diagnose, relieve or cure a disease, illness or injury’. Shiatsu is a therapeutic practice rather than a surgical or medical service.“

Aviva are one of the largest insurers and their reply is:

“Aviva PMI covers proven treatment of short term acute conditions, we do not cover experimental treatment. Many complementary (or alternative) therapies are not considered proven by Aviva. Aviva do however cover a few complementary therapies to complement conventional treatments. The therapies covered have been selected mainly on commercial reasons, but also due to the evidence to support the treatments and the availability throughout the UK. Although we can see the perceived benefits of Shiatsu, at this time we are not looking to extend the range of complementary treatments that we look to cover. When robust peer reviewed random controlled trial evidence is available (in the treatment of short term acute conditions), this may be considered in the future when our products are redesigned.”

Vanbreda respond with:

“We don’t generally cover the mentioned therapies. If we do cover them, it is very client specific and only for a limited number of our members.”

Healthshield has covered Shiatsu for many years now and we are currently in talks with them to ask if they will cover Shiatsu Health Point practitioners.

Westfield Health latest response is:

“Under our Health and Wellbeing plan we cover: Acupressure, Allergy testing & food intolerance testing Aromatherapy Hypnotherapy Indian Head massages Nutritional therapy Reflexology Reiki Sports massage. We also provide cover for physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathy benefit. I would explain that as a not for profit company we operate with very tight margins. The Plan includes access to many therapies and treatments that we feel are beneficial to our policyholders.  Extending the range of benefits would increase premiums and although we are constantly evolving our products, changes are only done after careful consideration and investigation and where we feel there would be a benefit to a significant number of our policyholders.”


Why then are other modalities such as massage and acupuncture included in private insurance schemes?

The answer is because they have the appropriate type of scientific studies and research data, and a lot more of it than Shiatsu has.


The NHS state: “The practice of conventional medicine is regulated by laws that ensure that practitioners are properly qualified, and adhere to certain standards or codes of practice. This is called statutory professional regulation. Professionals of two complementary and alternative treatments – osteopathy and chiropractic – are regulated in the same way.”

At present, we only have voluntary regulation for Shiatsu in the UK, not statutory regulation.

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)

When asked how NICE publish information on Shiatsu their response was:

“As an independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance for the NHS on promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health we have not published any standalone pieces of guidance that only evaluate complementary therapies. Instead, we have published guidance on the care and treatment of patients with particular health conditions, and some of these include recommendations about complementary therapies where the evidence supports its use.  When a topic is referred to NICE by the Department of Health, NHS England or other government departments it is usually for NICE to develop guidance on the treatment of a specific health condition. In order to develop our recommendations we identify and review the evidence relevant to the treatment of that condition. As a result it is important to note that although we may recommend the use of a particular therapy for one condition, it does not confer an automatic recommendation on the use of the same therapy for other conditions. We haven’t produced any guidelines where Shiatsu massage is recommend as a treatment option.”

How do we change things?


Bottom line is Shiatsu does not have the ‘scientific proven research’ that the western medicine world/NICE require to prove that Shiatsu is safe and effective. Research is extremely expensive and takes a long time, and many people argue the required western research methods are not suitable for CAM.  That’s another very long discussion which I am not going to cover here.


One answer is through collaboration. We all need to keep writing to these companies – organisations, practitioners, and clients.  There has been some success in Europe with this approach, but it took thousands of letters over many years.

More support. There are various Easyfundraising and Crowdfunding schemes set up which are little supported by Shiatsu practitioners.  These schemes have been set up to raise funds for much needed research into Shiatsu.  Easyfundraising costs you nothing! You just need to buy any online goods via this website before you shop online.  Just a click of a button is all that is required. Our new community company is about to have an Easyfundraising page as we want to raise funds for the company.  All proceeds will go towards funding of community projects whereby practitioners will be paid their full rate as one of our aims is to get practitioners making a decent living from Shiatsu whilst raising the awareness of Shiatsu and giving back to the community.



  1. Diana Cassidy RPSSI said on January 19th, 2018 11:48 am:

    Here in Ireland the amount available by health insurers, to members, in any given year for non-conventional therapies is so limited that it is hardly worth the effort. The last time I checked – about 12 months ago, it worked out at little more than €30 – €40 (barely the cost of the charge for 1 treatment).