GCC Failure to Clarify Code of Practice Ends in Formal Complaint

June 10, 2009 at 8:54 pm (Alternative Medicine, Chiropractic) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I recently emailed the GCC to ask for clarification on a point that relates to my correspondence with Bassett Chiropractic Clinics, of St Albans Chiropractic Clinic, The Hertford Chiropractic Clinic, Watford Chiropractic Clinic, and Kings Langley Chiropractic Clinic (Bassett Chiropractic Clinics are members of the British Chiropractic Association – the organisation suing Simon Singh, who co-authored the excellent Trick or Treatment with Edzard Ernst). I have now made a formal complaint, the text of which follows:

As the GCC are unable to answer my query, I have instead decided to make a formal complaint about Bassett Chiropractic Clinics. I believe that they are in breach of the GCC’s Code of Practice and Standard of Proficiency (section C1.6). Given that the Advertising Standards Authority have previously ruled against another clinic for advertising chiropractic for whiplash, I consider XXX’s “Bassett Chiropractic Clinic” website, which claims that whiplash is one of the conditions that their chiropractors can help with, to be publicising Mr XXX’s clinics (St Albans Chiropractic Clinic, The Hertford Chiropractic Clinic, Watford Chiropractic Clinic, and Kings Langley Chiropractic Clinic) in a manner that is inconsistent with guidance issued by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Regards,
James Cole.

I wonder how the BCA’s membership feels about their association’s decision to sue Simon Singh.

It feels perhaps a little harsh to make a formal complaint about someone in this way, but I did give the owner of the Bassett Chiropractic Clinics website the opportunity to engage with me – which he failed to take – and I asked the GCC to answer a perfectly reasonable question, which they failed to answer. Perhaps if Bassett Chiropractic Clinics had been willing to discuss their claims instead of cutting short our correspondence or the GCC had been prepared to clarify their own Code of Practice in order that I might inform BCC of their clarification this complaint wouldn’t have been made. If people are going to make medical claims, refuse to engage with critics of these claims, and resort to the law courts in order to silence their more prominent critics then they could be said to have brought this kind of activism upon themselves.

EDIT 13th June: My single complaint to the GCC is a mere token gesture in comparison to the work of the authors of Adventures in Nonsense and Zeno’s blog. The former has reported approximately 500 chiropractors at 174 practices and the latter has made 523 complaints to the General Chiropractic Council. As Zeno writes, “it’s a pity that it has taken unpaid, but concerned bloggers to make happen what the GCC should never have allowed to happen in the first place”.

7 Comments

  1. davidp said,

    I think a formal complaint about the GCC to the appropriate Minister or government department would be appropriate – it is surely a regulator’s role to clarify its understanding of its own regulations.

  2. AndyD said,

    What’s truly astounding here is that Singh’s article probably had any real effect on the standing of the BCA or chirpractic in general. The readership was limited and, of those, many would have not fully understood its implications or outright disagreed anyway. It’s hard to imagine that a large number of people would have been influenced against the BCA because of it.

    On the other hand, the BCA’s decision to sue Singh has resulted in a massive loss of confidence within the chiropractic community itself and this must flow on to their clientele who might start wondering why their genuine questions aren’t being answered and why they can’t find the information they want on the websites

    Perhaps individual chiropractors need to launch a class action against the BCA for bringing their individual practises into disrepute?

    (I’m not a lawyer or scientist so take anything I say with a grain of salt – and that isn’t a medical prescription)

  3. AndyD said,

    Bugger – that should read “What’s truly astounding here is that Singh’s article probably had NO real effect on the standing of the BCA or chiropractic in general.”

  4. Simon Perry said,

    I think dismissing your argument amounts to a breach of the GCC’s code of conduct in itself:

    F1 Chiropractors must respect and encourage the skills and contributions which others bring to the care of patients.

    Really quite tempting to report the BCA board to the GCC on this one.

  5. jdc325 said,

    Excellent spot there Simon. I might have to send another complaint to the GCC about the failure of the BCA board to encourage my contributions…

    AndyD – yes, the original article was probably taken note of more by the BCA than by anyone else. Sceptics would have just nodded and thought “yes, chiropractic for whiplash and colic is pretty bogus” while the article probably wouldn’t have even registered with most Guardian readers let alone the general public as a whole. Now, though, we have celebrities queueing up to lambast the BCA. They really have shot themselves in the foot.

  6. jdc325 said,

    @davidp: “…it is surely a regulator’s role to clarify its understanding of its own regulations”
    Well, one would have thought that would be the case. I find it bizarre that the GCC seems to think otherwise.

    EDIT: I can complain to the GCC about the GCC if I want to…
    http://www.gcc-uk.org/page.cfm?page_id=1170

  7. Simon Singh Case Response Roundup « God knows what… said,

    […] Similar goings ons at jdc325’s blog wherein he discussed some of the claims made by a specific chiropractic clinic on the BCA’s membership list and provided a good summary of the evidence for chiropractic treatments (lack of effect) on whiplash. He then contacted the relevant clinic and asked them about the evidence for their claims, got some dismissive replies that were less than impressive and eventually lodged a formal complaint. […]

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