Government bails out Ofquack as it rewrites old press release

 

Last March I asked, “Will the government bail out Ofquack?” when it was becoming very clear that the new government backed ‘regulator’ for pseudo-medical trades people (quacks) were running out of money  fast. It looks like at about the time I was asking this, the CNHC were running cap in hand to the Department of Health.

In documents I have obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, it would appear that the Department of Health has agreed to give the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council a further £409,300 for the year 2009/2010 and is looking at an additional £127,750 for the following year. This money would appear to be conditional on Ofquack “making good progress against their Business Plan.”

Quite what the CNHC are telling the Department of Health is not clear. I am failing so far to get any reports from the DoH regarding their progress. The problem with FOI requests is that you have to know what documents and data are available. It is taking some time to tease that information out. So far, it looks as if there are no reports  – which is worrying in itself.

What is even more bizarre is how Ofquack appear now to be rewriting old press releases that mentioned what their Business Plan might be. I have been reporting now for several years how most of the pseudo-medical  trades that come under the umbrella of the CNHC have been very reluctant to participate. The homeopaths have flatly refused to take part. The Nutritional Therapists looked as if they might but then have backed out. Only the Massage Therapists have joined in any numbers. And after six months of operation,  they have managed to sign up 423 quacks against a target of 10,000 for the year. Back of the envelope calculations would suggest that this number of registrants would keep the CNHC in business for a few weeks. Hence, the need for the government to chip in again if they are not to sink as fast as a lead duck.

But this new money does appear to dependent on them meeting ‘Business Objectives’. It would take an enormous stretch of the imagination to think that 423 registrants is anything like an acceptable achievment. When they started signing people up I said they would be lucky to reach 1,000 by the end of the year. I might have been over optimistic.

So it comes as little surprise to see that in the last few days, Ofquack have been busy in an Orwelian attempt to rewrite history so that it makes things look a little rosier for them. They say they now have “seven overarching priorities” and then go on to list all eight of them.  The press release dated 10th December 2008 now begins with two “overarching priorities”:

  • To register 4,000 complementary practitioners
  • To achieve a self-sustaining financial position by the end of the financial year 2010/2011 (ie second year or operation

This is not the first time they have re-written their history. Originally, we were told that Ofquack would be supplying a ‘Kitemark’ to registrants. The British Standards Institute objected to them using their trademark and were told to stop. So, the press releases, and the rest of the site, were changed.

Further insight comes from an email I have seen between Ofquack officials and someone enquiring about their progress suggest they are confident they will sign up 2,000 pseudo-medical practitioners by the Autumn and 4000 by the Spring and will achieve their ‘self-funding’ target of 10,000 by Spring 2011.

Now, I think it pretty naughty to go back and rewrite old press releases. It does not look to me like a particularly honest thing to do. Ofquack is showing a complete failure to be open and transparent in its business. Despite pledging to post their minutes online, they quickly withdrew their first attempts and then failed to post others. They recently posted some minutes but they were so sanitised that they contained no information beyond a bunch of people met up and discussed some stuff.

The lack of accountability is quite worrying and I have discussed this before. At the moment, I see no evidence that they have had to report to anyone. I see no evidence that anyone is keeping an eye on their progress. They claim to be a regulator to help the protect the public against dangerous quacks but they refuse to discuss that tricky problem that none of those they seek to regulate have any good evidence that what they do works. It is the nonsensical regulation of charlatanism and delusion. 

The UK is currently facing grave funding decisions for our health service. Cuts are going to be made quite deep by the look of things. Ofquack is a small part of that, but a commitment to cutting out such nonsense would signal a greater commitment to ensuring our Health Service spends money on treatments that are effective and embraces systems that respect evidence. Ofquack just does not fit. It is a toothless regulator that cannot do what it sets out to do – protect the public. It refuses to consider the effectiveness of the treatments that it seeks to regulate. It is happy to give a ‘quality mark’ to pseudo-medical trades people as long as they have a certificate hanging on their toilet wall to show they have been ‘properly trained’. It does not matter a jot if that training is in nonsense, discredited techniques, mumbo jumbo or disproven theories. Ofquack was set up under the watchful eye of Prince Charles and his toad eaters at the Foundation for Integrated Health. All it will do is aggrandize them – which is what Mr Windsor no doubt wants to further his bizarre ‘integrative’ agenda.

The hundreds of thousands being thrown away here may not be large in the grand scheme of things. But it is money wasted and it could be used in a much more efficient way. The first thing that should be done if the government is serious about protecting the public from charlatans and the deluded is to divert the money into training Trading Standards officers in enforcing the current laws that prevent false medical claims being made by businesses. The law is new. It is unfamiliar to TS in practice, but it would only take a few successful prosecutions to really send a message through to the full zoology of quackery out there.

26 comments for “Government bails out Ofquack as it rewrites old press release

  1. Zeno
    June 19, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Have OfQuack been talking to the BCA? They too seem to totally underestimate the intelligence and investigative ability of bloggers. When will they learn?

    You overstate the current OfQuack numbers slightly! They currently (as of today) only have 409 people registered: 369 massage therapists, 38 nutritionists, and just 2 aromatherapists. 36 of these are also registered as aromatherapists.

    At this rate, they will have just just over 500 registered by the end of the year. Goodness knows when they'll reach 10,000!

    They announced today that their registration discount rate for massage therapists comes to an end next month and that:

    "The timing for the Early Bird offer for Nutrition will be revised once the issues about registration with NTC have been resolved."

    What issues are those, then?

  2. Warhelmet
    June 19, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Oh dear. If the CNHC want to protect clients, they need to ensure that CAM practitioners understand their limitations and be able to identify situations that are beyond their capabilities to deal with. I suspect that this is a stumbling point for many sCAM practitioners.

  3. Le Canard Noir
    June 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    "identify situations that are beyond their capabilities to deal with"

    Is that when their customers might actually be ill?

  4. Anonymous
    June 19, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    About the 'kitemark'; i fail to see how the cnhc rewrote history by removing the word from its website. Isnt that what they should do?
    D.

  5. Le Canard Noir
    June 19, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    It is the silent changing that rewrites history. Never acknowledging past mistakes. By changing a press release and not changing the date, you give the impression that is whatyou thought all along.

    Maybe I am being naive that a commercial body like CNHC should present a consistent and truthful representation of itself to the world.

  6. Anonymous
    June 20, 2009 at 12:07 am

    i take your point about the press release change, in this as well as the 'number of registrants' issue. That should be made more clear, ie an additional release be made.

    admittedly, the board doesnt have enough commercial experience.

    D.

  7. Martin
    June 20, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Excellent work Andy :)

    FYI, the CNHC have just issued a batshit insane statement on their website – does anyone know who 'Mr Smith' is?:

    http://layscience.net/node/601

  8. Jon
    June 20, 2009 at 1:19 am

    This isn't rewriting history, surely: CNCH is working on complementary and alternative histories.

  9. Anonymous
    June 20, 2009 at 3:55 am

    Zeno asks:
    "" "The timing for the Early Bird offer for Nutrition will be revised once the issues about registration with NTC have been resolved."

    What issues are those, then?"

    I've a feeling they might have something to do with this:
    http://www.nutritionaltherapycouncil.org.uk/Newsnew.htm#CNHC

  10. Anonymous
    June 20, 2009 at 4:01 am

    This is better:
    http://www.nutritionaltherapycouncil.org.uk/News.htm#CNHC

    25th February 2009 NEWS RELEASE

    The NTC is in discussion with the CNHC about the maintenance of standards for registration of nutritional therapy practitioners. In the interim, the NTC has suspended the transfer of registration to the CNHC and will be maintaining the NTC register in operation. The Grandparenting Scheme remains in operation. Successful applicants will be awarded a Certificate of Competence in Nutritional Therapy Practice and will be placed on the NTC register. ENDS

  11. gimpyblog
    June 20, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Andy,
    Now, I think it pretty naughty to go back and rewrite old press releases. It does not look to me like a particularly honest thing to do.

    Call it what it is – fraud; the deliberate falsification of records. In any respectable profession that would be a sackable offence, in science and medicine it would be career ending, in quackery it is par for the course.

  12. Anonymous
    June 20, 2009 at 7:58 am

    "You overstate the current OfQuack numbers slightly! They currently (as of today) only have 409 people registered:"

    Don't you dare change the figures in your post :D

    "It is happy to give a ‘quality mark’ to pseudo-medical trades people as long as they have a certificate hanging on their toilet wall to show they have been ‘properly trained’. It does not matter a jot if that training is in nonsense, discredited techniques, mumbo jumbo or disproven theories"

    Do you want to join your friend Simon perhaps? :D

    BillyJoe

  13. Le Canard Noir
    June 20, 2009 at 8:37 am

    The got the number 423 from an email correspondance someone had had with the Chair of Ofquack. I am quite happy to accept that Zeno's figures are more accurate as this will reflect their published register. We know that Ofquack have had double counting problems in the past. They cannot even get the number of "overarching priorities" they have right and that only requires counting to eight.

  14. Clarinda
    June 20, 2009 at 10:43 am

    No doubt any unfortunate 'mistakes' will be redacted and full transparency made available just as soon as a secret inquiry is held into well-intentioned ("thought it was the right thing to do at the time") invasions of customers wallets and cheque-books and, of course, lessons will be learned. Have I got that right?

  15. Peter in Dundee
    June 20, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    The thing to watch out for is group photographs of Ofquack board members. When people begin to be airbrushed, sorry, photoshopped out, then we will know the Stalinists really are in charge and we can use that to smear the Quacktitioner Royal . . .

  16. Stuart van Onselen
    June 20, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    FWIW, AFAIK, "Windsor" is the name of his House, not his surname(1). Since royalty don't actually have surnames, you'd need to research quite far back to find out what Charlie's surname would have been if he had been a commoner. And it would probably be something German-sounding.

    Nevertheless, none of my painful pedantry changes that fact that he is just another inbred muppet wasting taxpayer's money, just like every other "royal" in Western society.

    (1) Yeah, I know you know that, I just had an overwhelming urge to be pedantic. Probably my OCD. :-)

  17. Anonymous
    June 21, 2009 at 9:26 am

    According to the Royal Family's official website…
    http://www.royal.gov.uk/ThecurrentRoyalFamily/TheRoyalFamilyname/Overview.aspx
    Prince Charles's official surname at birth was Windsor, but since 1960 has been Mountbatten-Windsor.

    Although that doesn't change his inbred muppet status one jot!

  18. snooper
    June 21, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    is this thing working now?

  19. Anonymous
    June 22, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Can anyone shed any light on how much money has been spent per registered quack?

  20. Anonymous
    June 25, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Just so we get this in perspective £400K this year, £127K next year and they have already spent £900K to get into existance! Gawd knows how many snouts in the trough. Have you seen the list of board positions!!! A total of 423 registrants! My maths is school-boy level but that is over £1000 of tax-payer money per registrant. Shouldn't they be building a duck house? This one needs to got to the Telegraph.

  21. David Colquhoun
    June 27, 2009 at 7:07 am

    It is certainly true from my experience that Trading Standards offices are ill-equipped to enforce the Consumer Protection Unfair Trading regulations (May 2008). The rules are quite strong about false health claims. It is the responsibility of Trading Standards to enforce them, but they aren't really doing it. If money is to be spent, that's where it should go.

  22. Anonymous
    July 3, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    ALL CHANGE….

    According to the Youga Council http://www.britishcouncilforyogatherapy.org.uk/news.html

    CHNC are not looking for 10,000 registrants any more; not even 4,000 now it is only 2000! Anyone thought about giving them lessons in maths?
    'Funding CHNC – department of Health is due to fund until March 2011, then CNHC self funding.

    The register went live19 Jan 09 for Nutritionists and Massage Therapists. 400 are currently on register with 600 applicants to process. 2000 registrants is the target for September 09.'

  23. Anonymous
    July 29, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Now to be fair they have got 2 Aromatherapists and 38 Nutritional therapists as at the 27th July 2009:

    http://gimpyblog.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/society-of-homeopaths-reject-ofquack-regulation/

    They don't have any power, any respect or aparently even any skills in mathmatics. Any 'theraspist' mad enough to join this deserves to be fleeced of their £50!

  24. Inspiros
    October 4, 2009 at 7:30 am

    "They claim to be a regulator to help the protect the public against dangerous quacks but they refuse to discuss that tricky problem that none of those they seek to regulate have any good evidence that what they do works. It is the nonsensical regulation of charlatanism and delusion."
    This is my concern. I'm a hypnotherapist and my profession is thinking of joining CNHC. Yet we have a body of research (not as many RCTs as we'd like), academic journals (e.g. The International Journal of Clinical and Experiemental Hypnosis) – and hypnosis is a serious research topic in psychology departments (we have plausible mechanisms of action – even if they aren't yet agreed upon). And a good deal of the medical community feel hypnotherapy could be quite effective for stress and anxiety related conditions.

    I really don't think government regulation with HPC is a likely or necessary route (they're going to have enough of an issue swallowing psychotherapists and counsellors!)… but why should a reasonably respected profession (yes we've got some wild amateur cowboys in there) jump into bed with aromatherapists and homeopaths?

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