Ofquack’s Toothless Squawk

Today sees the long awaited launch of the government backed Ofquack, better known in some circles as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Ofquack is the “national voluntary regulator for complementary healthcare practitioners” and was set up by Prince Charles’ Foundation for Integrated Health and funding from the Department of Health.

You can find their sparkly new website at http://www.ofquack.org.uk/.

It has been quite a long road getting here. The quackometer reported on the newly emerging regulator’s woes this time last year when I described it as a dead duck. The CNHC had grand ambitions to be the one-stop-shop regulator for all complementary therapists – a single register that the public can check to see if their chosen quack professional was ‘legit’. The House of Lords, in a 2000 report, said that such a move was desirable. It has been a dismal failure.

The reasons for this are many, but principally stem from the daft decision by the Department of Health to put the set-up of the new body in the hands of Prince Charles. This is a man with a blind faith in all sorts of wooly alternative health ideas and no critical ability to appraise the problem rationally. His sycophants have assured that Ofquack has been set up so that it presents little challenge to his beliefs.

So, Ofquack is not quite dead, but it is moribund. They state that their aim for 2009 is to register 10,000 practitioners. My guess is that they will achieve a tenth of that. Of all the forms of quackery that were supposed to be regulated by the CNHC only massage therapy and nutritional therapy are included in the fold. The other large quack trades, such as homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology and reiki have not been cooperative and enthusiastic in their wish to be regulated. The homeopaths, for example, have flatly refused to take part and their current fake regulatory bodies, such as the Society of Homeopaths, are desperately trying to be seen as their own effective regulators – a role they fail dismally at.

So, will the massage therapists and nutritional therapists flock to the fold of Ofquack? Well, massage therapy is a small trade – it does not include the vast majority of massagers that you might find in luxurious hotels, sports centres, or dodgy rooms above a betting shop in the less salubrious suburbs of Birmingham. Massage therapists are the massagers left over who somehow believe that a good rub down can clear your body of toxins or something. Not a happy ending.

What of the nutritional therapists? I somehow doubt they will be rushing to join. They stand to lose a great deal by being independently regulated. Currently, their own regulator BANT allows them to get away with all sort of sharp practice. BANT changed their code of practice under pressure from Vitamin pill companies to allow BANT members to take kick backs on the sale of pills. This is a cosy and profitable arrangement that I am sure would be threatened if Ofquack decided to apply some more ethical standards to their registrants. Nutritional therapists also make money from dodgy diagnostic tests, such as fake allergy testing and hair mineral analysis, which has been described by the American Medical Association as “an unproven practice with potential for health care fraud.” I am sure practitioners would wish to stay with a ‘regulator’ who is in on the scam.

So, even if some quacks decide to join so that they can use the new ‘kite mark’ on their advertising, will Ofquack work? I doubt it. The central problem is that the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council appear to be horribly confused about what they are supposed to be protecting the public from.

Today, one of the chairs of the CNHC said on the BBC web site (Alternative therapy ‘crackdown’) that Ofquack would “would clean up the industry used by one in five people.” She “estimated thousands of clinics may go out of business in the process.” (See Maggie Dunn talk about Ofquack here).However, the BBC were quick to point out the flaw here when they said “It will not judge clinics on whether therapies are effective, but rather on whether they operate a professional and safe business.” However, there is an inherent contradiction here that you cannot assess if a therapy is ‘professional and safe’ if you do not also take into account if the therapy is effective. And here we have the fatal flaw in the whole idea of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Let’s imagine a few scenarios. Someone complains to Ofquack that a nutritional therapists is using hair mineral analysis to diagnose ‘mineral deficiencies’ and using this as a basis of selling huge numbers of expensive supplements and then is taking a kick back on the sales in the form of commissions. Hair mineral analysis does not diagnose dietary deficiencies. The whole basis of the transaction is fraudulent and yet is very common in nutritionist circles. What would Ofquack do? They would probably consult their therapy specialists who advice them if such a practice was within the training of a therapist. And the answer would be ‘yes’. Patrick Holford’s Institute of Optimum Nutrition in London trains students in such dodgy practices. The course is underwritten by the University of Bedfordshire. Is the practice safe? Well no direct harm has occurred, although the indirect harm is that someone believes their diet is deficient when it probably is not, and they are left with the belief that they have to buy ‘specially formulated’ vitamin and mineral supplements to avoid dreadful health effects. Could Ofquack protect the public from these dubious practices without asking ‘is the therapy effective’?

A second scenario – based on real life. A customer is brain damaged by a nutritional therapist who told their customer that the needed to diet by drinking lots of water and removing salt from their diet. Again, this sort of advice is routine. This year, Barbara Nash, a nutritional therapapist, was sued and paid out £810,000 in a settlement for compensation for such a course of action? How would Ofquack respond to such a complaint? Clearly they would have to take into account that such advice is batty and dangerous. But to do this they have to rely on their ‘panel of experts’ from the various quack trades. In the Barbara Nash case, none of the nutritional therapy bodies spoke out and condemned her actions. People like Nash are constantly told that they have good training and are professional. As Ben Goldacre argued in the guardian,

After completing the rigorous training at the “College of Natural Nutrition”, anyone would naturally believe themselves to be appropriately qualified, and able to give advice confidently. Nash’s confidence in her own abilities seems entirely congruent with that world view.

Membership of Bant carries such privileges as “a listing in the Bant Directory of Practitioners, which is available to the public and entry on the Bant website” and “acknowledgement of professional status by the Nutritional Therapy Council”. So endorsed, Nash would once again have perfectly reasonable grounds for a strong faith in her own abilities

The big fear here is that if any therapist would join Ofquack, they now would have government backed endorsement of their ‘abilities and professionalism’, even though everything they think they know is nonsense – and sometimes dangerous nonsense.

The Barbara Nash affair took its first scalp at Ofquack. In my blog, I laid part of the blame on the British Dietetic Association for not doing enough to educate the public about the difference between quack nutritional therapists and properly qualified and regulated Dietitians. It transpired that Andy Burman, Chief Executive of the BDA, was actually on the board of directors of the CNHC. You can see from comments on my web site the sheer anger of dietitians over the fact that their Chief Executive was openly helping to promote quack alternatives to their profession. Dieticians have to spend a lot of their time disabusing patients of the nonsense they have been told by nutritionists. Very soon after, Andy Burman resigned from the CNHC board of directors.

So, even if quacks start joining the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council there will soon be huge stresses applied. The first upheld Advertising Standards complaint, or any other action that requires Ofquack to judge if a therapy is effective will result in their current structures unable to cope and their members frightened to death. Quacks are used to cosy arrangement with their current trade bodies who act as regulators. They know they could never be struck off for doing their normal quack business. But Ofquack, being a government body, and with a large lay team acting as judges, may sooner or later have to let reality into their decisions. The whole edifice will then collapse.
So what is to be done? Well, the first thing is that setting up voluntary regulators that rubber stamp quack training and practices only legitimises irrational, fraudulent and dangerous practices. It will risk giving extra undeserved standing to nonsense and will not protect the public from delusional and/or deceitful actions.

The whole thing has been a huge waste of money. The hundreds of thousands of pounds given by the government to set up this body would have been much better spent on training Trading Standards Officers in the issues of alternative medicine. As Professor David Colquhoun argues, the new Trading Standards Laws that came into effect last May have probably made much of alternative medicine illegal. “The gist of the matter is that it is now illegal to claim that a product will benefit your health if you can’t produce evidence to justify the claim.” The law is clear: “falsely claiming that a product is able to cure illnesses, dysfunction or malformations” will be illegal. And as alternative medicine ceases to be alternative as soon as there is good evidence of efficacy, a lot of quacks could be in trouble.

What is standing in the way of people being prosecuted for making false health claims is the appropriate expertise within Trading Standards to evaluate the claims and initiate the appropriate prosecutions. There appears to be a situation evolving where there could be a large clash of government policy. It is likely Trading Standards will start prosecuting registered members of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. Now, that will be a sight to watch.

As always, satire is the most efficient way of telling the story.
The excellent Daily Mash runs with the headline…

Papa Limba said his first task as chairman of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council would be to identify which therapists were righteous shamans and which had the bad juju.

Limba said: “There are many frauds and not everyone has as strong a connection to the serpent god Demballa as they like to make out.”I place my hands on their head and if their spirit vibrates to the rhythm of the ocean I give them a sticker to put in the window. If not I rub them with the mashed root of the banyan tree and we never hear of them again.”He added: “Once a year I shall visit them and cast my chicken bones on their consulting room floor. If they are still there a week later I report them to health and safety.”

And there is the heart of the problem. How are Ofquack going to certified ‘well trained’ practitioners when their training is in nonsense?

Labels: CNHC, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, ofquack, regulation

posted by Le Canard Noir at 9:01 AM ShareThis

Blogger zeno said…
Well done Andy for getting the ofquack domain name – a stroke of genius!
The launch of Ofquack is all over the press today, with lots of stuff about consumer confidence in registered quacks, etc but no mention about registration saying nothing about their efficacy.
It remains to be seen how well they do regulate…

19 January, 2009 11:47
Anonymous Rob A said…
Looking forward to seeing David Colquhoun’s impact on the Conduct and Competence Committee.
“David started as an apprentice in Timothy White’s and Taylor’s (Homeopathic) Chemists…” brought a wry smile!

19 January, 2009 13:46
Blogger zeno said…
Ofquack use the work ‘kitemark’ for their symbol of ‘quality’. Pity that word is a Registered Trademark of the British Standards Institute…
Someone should tell them they are in breach of the BSI’s Intellectual Property!

19 January, 2009 15:48
It is not important how David Colquhoun started.
It is important who he became now.
So – hide your wry smile…

19 January, 2009 17:28
OpenID apgaylard said…
Have you seen their stated mission:
CNHC’s mission is to support the use of complementary and natural healthcare as a uniquely positive, safe and effective experience.”
I know their role doesn’t involve judging efficacy. I understand that they are concerned with professionalism and safety. But this seems to commit them to advocating that these modalities are effective, or am I missing something?
Is an “effective experience” different to an effective treatment? I guess I could probably make some sort of argument here, but it would be splitting hairs.

19 January, 2009 17:30
Blogger Rocko said…
Good stuff as ever.
I’m amazed that more hasn’t been said about the potential impact of the new Consumer Regs on sCAMs. Because from where I’m sat, it’s very clearly a potential disaster for them.
There’d be nothing to prevent a private action using them as a basis. I’d be fascinated to see how a test case fared.

19 January, 2009 19:17
Blogger zeno said…
“Ofquack use the work ‘kitemark’ for their symbol of ‘quality’.”
That should have been ‘word’, not ‘work’!
Have you read what Ofquack say about complaints:
“CNHC’s Complaints Handling Process is not intended to be punitive.”
So, they don’t even want to slap a quack’s wrist…

19 January, 2009 21:37
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Andy, it is obvious to anyone who has read your blog enough that your need for martyrdom (see the whole moving Servers) is just as big and unmet as your need (and delusion) of world salvation.
On that note, you should perform a reality check, if you can, and comprehend the illegality of mirroring or transfering or whatever it is you do to the genuine CNHC website by using it in the Ofquack address.
And Zeno, before you preach about kitemarks, consider your position, strongly congratulating Andy for breaking the law.

19 January, 2009 22:04
Blogger zeno said…
All hail the Great Andy! (But please don’t martyr yourself just yet – there’s far too much anti-quackery work to be done.)
I don’t think you know much about domain forwarding, do you? Of course Andy might just have illegally copied the entire CNHC website or mirrored it as you accuse him of, but there are far simpler and legalways of doing what he’s done – obvious to anyone who knows what he or she’s talking about.

19 January, 2009 22:15
Anonymous Anonymous said…
The language I used to describe what the blogger has done was chosen carefully, as a means of making it clear that I do not know much about law or internet IT and their interaction.
If I had it my way, experts appointed by people seeking redress would crash such clearly illegal acts; or have you assumed that the blogger seeked, and got, approval from the CNHC to display its intelectual property to a different site?
I must admit, my position on this means that I still cannot think of legal ways of doing this, but I am speaking as a lay man on this.

19 January, 2009 22:25
Blogger Le Canard Noir said…
Anon – perhaps you would like to engage with the points raised in this article rather than just displaying your ignorance. Maybe some progress could be made if quacks started debating about the real issues.

19 January, 2009 22:30
Blogger zeno said…
As someone who does know what he’s talking about, nothing illegal has been done here. No site has been copied (with or without the owner’s permission) and nobody’s IP has been infringed (not by Andy, anyway). Can I suggest before you continue your accusations, you consult someone who might just confirm what I am saying?
Anyway, it would be a far better use of legal resources to stop quacks from conning vulnerable people with their pseudo scientific nonsense.

19 January, 2009 22:35
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Le canard; I must say I am not in any way a quack, whatever this may mean; I have been reading this great blog and all the other big sites focusing on non-demonstratable science long before I’d ever thought I’d be posting a comment opposing its content. Which I am actually not doing, just pointing out that you are pushing it a bit with the ofquack site (its content to be specific). And with some of the language that you use, its sometimes a bit out of what would constitute good manners.
As for ignorance, a certain ancient Greek had something to say about it. Im sure you humanists know better than me.
I apologise, but I have to work now.

19 January, 2009 22:48
Anonymous gusfoo said…
Hilariously, if you put “ofquack” in to Google now it gives the real CNHC website but it’s titled as “ofquack”!

20 January, 2009 00:18
Anonymous Anonymous said…
Thought you’d all like this…

20 January, 2009 12:42
Blogger Paul Peace said…
If I knew a black man who sold drugs would I generalise from that to say ‘all black men sell drugs’? I have heard of hypnotherapists doing and claiming ridiculous things. Does that make me a quack as a hypnotherapist? I don’t think the British Psychological Society would be very pleased to continue my Chartered Psychologist status if so. A nutritional therapist once prescribed drinking lots of water (a good thing) without mentioning that most healthy things are unhealthy if done to excess. Does that make my degree in evidence-based nutritional therapy wasted? A rather dodgy, prejudiced generalising logic is being applied on the website. The failings of mainstream medicine (e.g. Saroxat) for some people seems to not be subject to the same generalising logic. Sounds like prejudice in the absence of information. There are plenty of ‘alternative’ therapists (alternative to what poses an interesting aside on the hegemonic norm of mainstream medicine) who are working in good faith, wouldn’t sleep at night selling quackery, who are honest and well-informed, and have seen the results routinely. I wonder how many contributors to this board have studied, researched in terms of efficacy, and tried the therapies they despise? It would be a bad scientist who dismissed the spherical nature of the planet and reasserted the ‘Earth is flat’ because this was a mainstream position yet s/he had not bothered to sail round it to find out. I want rid of people who act in bad faith for money, or misinform themselves and the public. I don’t believe this new register will do that. As well, even protected titles (e.g. dietitian) won’t work as all one has to do is to change professional title to something similar but unprotected. Alternative therapy is here to stay. I’m probably wasting my time defending it as much as most of you are opposing it! It’s interesting to reflect on why we should care. I’m off to practice my quackery and rip off my depressed client who has been masking her emotional issues with anti-depressants. She’s progressing now by dealing with the causes (childhood trauma) rather than symptoms, using hypnotherapy. She’s improved her diet and feels healthier and is exercising. Go see a quack. They are great!

21 January, 2009 12:03
Blogger Le Canard Noir said…
Paul – this commentary here is not “prejudice in the absence of information”. I, for one, have spent a lot of time examining the claims of homeopaths and other quacks and I have examined the evidence. By blog is full of such examination. The simple truth is that homeopathy is bunkum and so it reiki, reflexology and so on. Nutritional therapy is based on overextrapolated pseudoscience.
If you were to claim that these therapies do work, then it would be you was incompenetent as you would obviously not be familiar with the science and medical literature.
And this is the point. The people on the Ofquack register will be systematically incompetent. How can you regulate incompetence whilst denying that this is the central problem?
A nutritional therapist who uses hair mineral analysis to diagnose health issues and supplement needs is incompetent at best and a fraud at worst. And yet Ofquack may well rubber stamp them. Who is being protected? The Quack or the patient?

21 January, 2009 12:55
Blogger Paul Peace said…
A great deal of medicine doesn’t work. And it isn’t always researched upon scientific principles – it is at the mercy of economic and corporate forces. And although I have a science training, I think we should examine any assumptions that scientific study is necessarily better than other methods.
Science once ‘proved’ the world was flat and that the sun orbited the Earth – it was obvious, empirically verifiable, because you could see it moving round us in the sky!
It is a certain arrogance (I mean this in a cultural sense and not personal) that makes people think that everything has to appeal to scientific authority to be valid. I’m even a ‘complimentary’ or ‘alternative’ therapist. ‘To what?’, I often ask. It says a lot about the authority of medicine. Yet doctors get it wrong all the time. A depressed client of mine has had her life trashed by prescriptions of anti-depressants. Now we are working on assertiveness, confidence and building support networks.
Regarding Nutritional Therapy, I’m not sure about hair mineral analysis but I do know that high levels of aluminium in water can cause hair to go green. Literally. I expect it would be a delayed measure of mineral intake and absorption given the growth time though which adds complexity. I’ll wait to learn more about that one and retain my usual critical filter as I do.
But to talk more widely on nutritional therapy, it is a very scientific field (despite my reservations I think this is valuable). It is incredibly complex to study because of all the variables and difficulties in isolating nutrients (you can’t ethically deprive people of other nutrients to get clean data as you adjust levels of a single nutrient). This is true of hypnotherapy and homeopathy, and in fact every therapy, etc. Many people, myself including, sometimes think of it as art rather than science. I’m a pragmatist. If it works for people, that is what really matters. It usually does but it does fail sometimes, just like many medications.
Just because science does not yet have to tools to measure such complex variables does not mean it doesn’t work! It would be a ‘bad’ scientist, and an arrogant one, who assumed this. And these therapies do work for many, many people – even a placebo result is worth it for someone suffering depression.
I suspect we’ve gone off-topic though. The idea of a register of complimentary therapists seems ridiculous.
Despite my ambivalence, both liking and listening to science and yet disliking its hegemonic force, I do like critique and some cynicism. I am concerned (even as a complimentary practitioner) that such a register will act as an endorser of CAM. And its empty – just a register of therapists that are insured and in a professional body. But it’s how the public perceive it, who perhaps haven’t had time to think like us about it, and who are sometimes desperate – they will assume it means the therapy will work. There is nothing worse than someone coming to me for hypnotherapy, psychotherapy or NLP who thinks it is a miracle cure. I prefer healthy cynicism but I don’t like prejudice.
I’m not perfect though – I have routinely criticised reiki for all that ‘energy field’ nonsense and not even bothered to find out about it and try it myself. That is something I’m going to do.
Although we shouldn’t rely solely on anecdotal evidence I think it is right to try things and learn a lot before we criticise and I’m softening my once hardline scientific stance. If it works for people (and these things do) why deprive clients or poke fun at therapists, provided they are acting in good faith?
I find it funny and yet sad that tribes have been laughed at for ‘unscientific’ medical interventions e.g. witch doctors and then some scientist finds out the plant extract contains a chemical. When that is discovered, they claim ‘scientists discovered it’. Pure prejudice, arrogance and ignorance. Its about the same as saying we ‘discovered’ a country when native peoples already lived there for thousands of years!
Anyway enough ranting. I hope some of you on here take it a bit easier. We’re working very hard at campaigning! Why do we care so much?! Maybe we’ve got nothing better to do than defend our positions. It’s interesting though!
Better get back to my rip-off, misguided work on my gullible clients who are coming in for scientifically unproven treatments…

22 January, 2009 16:07
Blogger Le Canard Noir said…
Paul – your little rant demonstrates rather well why you cannot regulate CAM in the style of Ofquack. Your comments are contradictory and ignorant of basic science and its principles. Any practice you do must be systematically incompetent as you show now awareness of the nature of evidence. I think you must be quite typical and why prosecution is far more preferable to regulation.

22 January, 2009 16:56
Blogger Paul Peace said…
OK – last posting then I’ll leave it as defending our positions only makes it look more like they are in ‘need’ of defending.
I have a first class honours science degree, a PhD and I’m studying a science degree in Nutritional Therapy. I think it’s fair to say I know a fair bit about science.
There are two things that concern me about comments in this blog. 1) Science is being over-zealously defended – it’s good but not that good. 2) The assumption that (all) nutritional therapists are not trained on evidence-based science courses anyway.
To criticise a therapy of being pseudoscience is to elevate the status of science by comparison (such a comment isn’t flattery). Yet science, positivism, hypnothetico-deductivism and determinism routinely get things wrong. Don’t be so over-confident.
I have a healthy respect for science but I’m not gullible enough to think it has it ‘all wrapped up’ (hence my contradictions and healthy ambivalence).
You make a lot of assumptions and generalisations based on little information about me or my practice. Bad scientists like to do this as well. Big assumptions are rife elsewhere in this blog. Here is just one example:
The problem: A couple of nutritional therapists have advised drinking lots of water without mentioning the risks of over-consumption. People have died.
Assumption 1: This example is typical of nutritional therapy, not extreme. Rather like the drug-dealing black man used to justify prejudice against ALL black men. Big generalisation.
Assumption 2: Mainstream healthcare workers with a ‘scientific’ training e.g. doctors, never kill people through bad advice (or surely they would be subject to a similar critique). Incorrect.
Assumption 3: Nutritional Therapists do not have a scientific training. Incorrect for the most part. In fact, the course at Uni of Surrey is accredited as continuing professional development for doctors by the British Medical Association.
If you are going to criticise not-science, have the decency to uphold scientific, rational thinking in your critique. This would apply to many therapies you are discussing. A good scientist would be more agnostic, waiting to see, interested rather than bigoted, excited about knowing something new.
So my advice is: when a therapy IS based on science, e.g. NT, accord it the same respect as mainstream approaches. However, be sophisticated enough to recognise that science, whilst good, does not have it all wrapped up anyway.
There is much that science doesn’t know. There was a time when scientists were humble and sought to understand the world. The arrogance has now grown to the point that they say silly things like ‘according to science the bumblebee should not be able to fly’. Ridiculous. Just because science has not yet got the tools to understand something does not mean it shouldn’t exist.

23 January, 2009 09:09
Anonymous Sean Ellis said…
Incensed about the CNHC’s lack of requirements for efficacy or safety? Sign the petition at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/CNHCsafety/

23 January, 2009 10:07
Blogger Le Canard Noir said…
Paul Peace – So, if science is ‘good, but not that good’ what is better? The guesswork and over extrapolation of nutritionists?
You say “Just because science does not yet have to tools to measure such complex variables does not mean it doesn’t work! ” So, how do you know it works? Intuition, Anecdote, authority?
Utter bullshit.

23 January, 2009 22:12
Anonymous UKdietitian said…
The University of Surrey is one of few universities accredited to teach ‘nutritional therapy’ in the form of nutrition degrees, dietetic degrees, and an MSc in – note – Nutritional Medicine – NOT nutritional therapy.
Are you sure you know what course you are on?
It is pitiful how much nutritional therapists, whether “trained” or “in training” have the arrogance and ignorance to believe their limited knowledge is sufficient to treat clients on nutritional issues. At best you will manage nothing more than superficial pill promotion alongside a quasi-scientific twist on healthy eating, misinforming the vulnerable public with your own pseudo-scientific take on nutrition.
At worst you will give clients information that could harm them. The only reason that the appalling level of unconcious incompetence goes unrecorded in the world of the self-styled nutritionist world out there is that there has never been any form of redress for the assaulted client, bar the courts.
You forget the elephant in the room of nutritional healthcare – that of the Registered Dietitian. Post-graduate science graduates regulated in practice and behaviour by law – not by the whimsical opinions of an HRH and his ilk.
We are, dare we say, the ‘complementary therapists’ using nutrition as a preventative agent or adjunct to medical management in a rational, scientific and objective manner.
Andy has impeccably illustrated the concerns the public should have with regards OfQuack.
You give similar reasons why the public should avoid those ‘practicing’ nutrition when not even qualified in the subject to do so.
you say
“why deprive clients or poke fun at therapists, provided they are acting in good faith?”
Good faith is no excuse for individuals to dabble in health issues with such an elementary knowledge of the subject. Their clients are at risk from such amateur approaches.
Please continue, Andy, to highlight these valid concerns.

26 January, 2009 22:30
Blogger zeno said…
I was perusing the website of the “Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT) and came across this (http://www.fht.org.uk/mainwebsite/generale37a2510.aspx?map=52b0ee41dae366fa65bf2c01a5d41424):
“As a result the CNHC has listened to the FHT by reducing its fees . This has been possible due to the FHT facilitating a fast track registration process that confirms the therapists qualifications, insurance, professional reputation and good character. This now means that FHT members can save money by not paying the CNHC initial administration fee (£15 online, £25 offline), if registering via the FHT.”
So, not only are OfQuack misleading the public, they are passing on the responsibility of regulation to a third party who have a vested interest in getting it’s (paid) members registered and are completely uncontrolled!
And what’s this about ‘professional reputation and good character’?

31 January, 2009 22:02
Blogger zeno said…
Further to my post about OfQuack illegally using a Registered Trademark of the British Standards Institute, I’ve sent the BSI the following email:
I understand that the word ‘Kitemark®’ is a Registered Trademark of the BSI.
It has come to my attention that this word is being used by another organisation and I suspect it has not been authorised by yourselves.
The organisation is the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), which was recently set up by the Government to ‘regulate’ the alternative medicine industry and which started operations on 19 January 2009.
They use the word on their website in many places, such as:
Our key function is to enhance public protection, by setting standards for registration with CNHC. We anticipate that obtaining the CNHC “kitemark” will swiftly be recognised as the hallmark of quality for the sector. Over time, the general public and those who commission the services of complementary healthcare practitioners will be able to choose with confidence, by looking for the CNHC kitemark.
What does the CNHC kitemark mean?
Practitioners on the CNHC Register will be able to display the CNHC kitemark, which will become the general public’s guide to identifying best practice in complementary healthcare provision. The kitemark can be displayed where you practice and in your publicity materials such as leaflets and websites.
Having worked in industry for 30 years and having sat on a BSI committee until I left the industry a few months ago, I understand the need to control and protect the use of Registered Trademarks. What is particularly worrying is that the CNHC claim the Kitemark® is a public sign of quality and will lead the public into understanding that the services and products offered are of a high standard, safe and that they work. This is not the case: they are there simply to ensure registrants have insurance and have undergone some kind of training.
The association of the word Kitemark® with the BSI will undeservedly enhance the CNHC’s profile but diminish the BSI’s as people come to associate the word with alternative therapies that are not clinically tested and do not work and even may not be safe.
I would be interested to understand your position on this.
Best regards.

31 January, 2009 22:40
Blogger zeno said…
A result! I got a response from the BSI. I’ve not checked OfQuack’s website yet, but at least they’ve had their wrists slapped. However, the thought of BSI issuing a British Standard for homoeopathy, just doesn’t bear thinking about!
“Thank you for your enquiry and your concern for Kitemark. Please be assured that we take the protection of our trademark extremely seriously and all potential mis-usage is reported to our Group Legal department where we have a team specialised in Intellectual Property and its protection.
The legal team have been in contact with CNHC about their use of Kitemark and the Co-Chair of this organisation has assured us that they did not intend to mis-use Kitemark, have issued sincere apologies and have committed to put this in writing along with a commitment not to use the word again.
If you re-visit the links you should see that they have removed reference to Kitemark. Naturally should CNHC be interested in commissioning a standard and a Kitemark scheme then BSI would be only to happy to discuss this with them.
Thank once again for your query and I hope that this clarifies the situation and our action.”

04 February, 2009 11:59
Blogger zeno said…
I’ve checked and they’ve moved fast – there is now no mention of Kitemark (or ‘kite mark’) on OfQuack’s website: it now calls it a ‘quality mark’. How the hell can they call it a ‘quality’ anything? Having insurance and been through a course of their chosen woo at some ‘college’ or other doesn’t guarantee any kind of quality. Surely this is misleading and should be reported to Trading Standards? Anyone seen any OfQuack ads anywhere that could be reported to the ASA? I think I could make a good case for it and would be willing to give it a go.

04 February, 2009 12:20
Blogger zeno said…
Good article (well, better than average for a newspaper) on OfQuack in The Scotsman today:

10 February, 2009 10:05
Blogger zeno said…
Well! OfQuack Have had an Overwhelming Response, apparently:
“In view of the publicity generated by our launch, we are delighted to say that we have been overwhelmed by both enquiries and applications.
Clearly we are very pleased with this. However, it has meant, regrettably, that there is some unavoidable delay in processing applications. Please be patient with us.
Thank you for all your interest and warm support.
Maggie Dunn & Maggy Wallace
However, this overwhelming response has resulted in…well…a massive 44 (forty four) registrations! Yep. That’s all that’s on their database.
It doesn’t take long to use their postcode search, using each letter of the alphabet to see how many they have in the postcode areas starting with that letter.
They may be overwhelmed, by my whelm is well and truly undered.

12 February, 2009 23:22
Blogger zeno said…
When you find a quack who has registered, OfQuack don’t give you their registration numbers. I would have thought that was fairly important if you’re checking on someone who is claiming to be registered.

13 February, 2009 13:46
Blogger zeno said…
Have you seen this article in The Sun by their resident doctor?
Why I’m so sick of alternative therapy
There’s even a cartoon about OfQuack!

24 February, 2009 16:59
Blogger zeno said…
OfQuack caught inflating the number of registered quacks
After entering their second batch of quack registrations on 17 February, I counted that they had a grand total of 106 registrations.
However, I was checking today and realised I was wrong.
They only have 99.
They were applying the same rigour and integrity to entering quacks into their database as they use when checking that the quacks have studied an appropriate amount of human anatomy, etc or that their customers are receiving proper medical care for their conditions or that the therapies actually work. None. They had one person in EIGHT times with exactly the same data, making it look like they had 7 more registered that they actually have*. Of course, we can expect them to fix the problem immediately…give them time…they’ve only had 10 days so far (and they’ve been ‘overwhelmed‘, remember) to spot and correct their counting error…what’s it going to be like when they have hundreds or thousands?
* This works out as an error rate of 7.1%. If they get 10,000 in 2009 (their self-proclaimed objective), this would be 707 errors in their database. But why bother with accuracy when you’re dealing with quackery, eh?

26 February, 2009 23:42
Blogger zeno said…
OfQuack were busy last week! They now have 139 quacks registered (excluding the seven duplicates that haven’t bothered to fix yet). Still not overwhelmed.
That’s a rate of less than 20 a week. Their target is 10,000 by the end of the year, but at this rate, they will have only 850 registered!
(They’ve made it more difficult for me to gather the data, but they haven’t beaten me yet!)

08 March, 2009 23:14
Blogger zeno said…
OfQuack fumble to correct their breach of their own Privacy Policy, but still can’t get it right! http://tinyurl.com/cvqn6o

20 March, 2009 01:19

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