Today I submitted my very first complaint to OfQuack (affectionately known in the sceptical community as the "Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council").
UPDATE, 17 Apr: OfQuack have replied. See below.
The unlucky registrant upon whom the wrath of SLW falls is Michelle Alexander, a local reflexologist.
Michelle's website contains several claims about reflexology which I strongly suspect cannot be justified.
OfQuack complaints must be submitted on a special form, but luckily, evidence can be submitted on a separate sheet. Here is what it contained.
"This document has been written to accompany my my complaint to the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), regarding Michelle Alexander who is registered with the CNHC as a reflexologist.
1. The registrant promotes reflexology on her website, www.beautyswithin.co.uk
2. On her website, the registrant makes the following claims:
(i) Reflexology "reaches back to ancient Egypt"
(ii) Reflexology "help[s] remove crystalline deposits, re-opening energy channels allowing the body to re-balance and heal from within"
(iii) Reflexology "Imprves [sic] circulation"
(iv) Reflexology can be "applied to specific areas in [sic] your feet to affect an entirely different organ(s) or body part(s)"
(v) Reflexology "improve[s] the function of your organs and glands" and "bring[s] back the body's balance"
(vi) Reflexology "opens energy channels"
3. Section 15 of the Code of Conduct, Performance and Ethics For Registrants states "You must not make or support unjustifiable statements relating to particular products or services".
4. With regard to the six statements quoted above, under Section 15 of the Code of Conduct I challenge whether:
(i) The registrant can justify any of the six statements
(ii) The registrant has "follow[ed] CNHC guidelines in relation to advertising [her] services"
5. With regard to the six statements quoted above, under Section A of the Code of Conduct ("Introduction") I challenge whether:
(i) The registrant has "observe[d] the standards set out in this document" and has "ensure[d] that they are observed"
6. With regard to the six statements quoted above, under Section B of the Code of Conduct ("Your duties as a Registrant") I challenge whether:
(i) The registrant has "act[ed] in the best interests of [her] patients, clients and users"
(ii) The registrant has "maintain[ed] appropriate and effective communication with patients, clients, users, carers and other registrants and professionals"
(End of document)"
The reply arrived on 17th April.
"I am writing on behalf of Maggie Dunn, CNHC CEO/Registrar in response to the complaint form received on 12 April 2010 regarding Michelle Alexander’s website.
In November, CNHC’s Investigating Committee panel met to consider a number of similar complaints about claims made on practitioners’ websites. At that meeting the panel agreed to uphold the complaints made but decided that each of the practitioner’s fitness to practise was not impaired as they did not deliberately seek to mislead their clients or to exaggerate the benefits of the therapy which were described in good faith. The panel asked the CEO to ensure that the websites and any associated printed materials published by the registrants against whom you made a complaint were amended to ensure that they comply with paragraph 15 above by the end of March 2010. The panel also asked the CEO to initiate discussions with CNHC’s Profession Specific Boards (PSBs) and professional fora to agree advice to registrants about clause 15 of the Code, and to bring this matter and the outcome of the panel’s deliberations to the attention of all registrants, PSBs and Committee members.
A number of further, similar complaints were considered by the Conduct and Competence Committee at a meeting on 9 March. At this meeting it was agreed that it would not be appropriate to consider these complaints at the present time since they are so similar to the ones received previously, and since guidance on advertising has not yet been published by CNHC to assist registrants in making changes to their publicity material. The reason for the delay in publishing guidance is because at its meeting in March, the Committee has agreed that the guidance in preparation should be further developed to include all communications with potential clients, including verbal communication by telephone and email. This will delay the publication schedule to May, to allow time for consultation with PSB and committee members.
In line with the decision taken by the Conduct and Competence Committee, we have decided not to investigate your complaint at this time, although we are grateful to you for raising this matter with you, we take this matter very seriously and we recognise that your complaint was made in the public interest. We would be pleased to consider any future complaints you wish to make but would not be able to action any complaints of a similar nature to the complaint you have already submitted for six months from the date of this letter. This allows time for CNHC to publish and promote its guidance on advertising, and for registrants to take appropriate action.
I would like to thank you for bringing this matter to the attention of CNHC.
Carol Jollie, Business Manager"