UK Health Centre: Misleading information about osteopathy – an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) complaint

Core Health Rulings - ASA I CAP_ - https___www.asa.org.uk_codes-and-rulings_rulings.htmlI have previously highlighted the many misleading claims about complementary and alternative medicine on the UK Health Centre website. The website is owned by Core Health Ltd and they provide misleading information about osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal remedies. The information they provide is misleading the general public and has the potential to cause people to take unsuitable treatments. In the interest of public safety I therefore reported UK Health Centre to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In this initial complaint I focused on their claims relating to osteopathy. The complaint was “informally resolved” because Core Health Ltd provided the ASA with assurance that they would “remove claims that osteopathy can treat conditions outside of those the ASA has seen evidence it can assist with”. Regardless of the assurances they may have given the ASA, Core Health Ltd have definitely NOT brought their site in line with the guidelines. The UK Health Centre website continues to promote osteopathy as a treatment for a wide range of medical conditions including:

  • Whiplash
  • Asthma and chest problems
  • Diabetes
  • Long term illness
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Osteoporosis
  • IBS
  • Glue ear
  • Infections and illness
  • Improving the immune system
  • Increasing the efficiency of nerve supply
  • Insomnia
  • Low energy
  • Growing pains
  • Dysmenorrhoea (period pains)
  • Recovery from childbirth
  • Common infant problems (including colic, sleep problems)
  • Monitoring baby’s growth and development
  • Improving cognitive function
  • Visual and hearing impairment

If you compare this list with the one from my previous article you can see that rather than removing the conditions that osteopaths may not advertise to treat they have actually added more!

Osteopathy as a “Preventative Treatment”

They also continue to recommend osteopathy as a “preventative treatment”. Preventative treatment is very attractive to osteopaths because it provides a way to keep patients coming back over a long period of time even if they have no current medical problems. This issue is highlighted by other authors such as Edzard Ernst . From a patient perspective, there is no reason why they should attend for preventative treatments and osteopaths are misleading them by suggesting otherwise. Let’s be really clear about this: there is ZERO evidence that osteopathy prevents anything and the only person who benefits from preventative treatments is the osteopath (and their bank balance).

Systemic Problems in UK Osteopathy

Core Health Ltd are clearly reluctant to remove their misleading advertising claims. This actually gives us an insight into the behaviour of UK osteopaths. Osteopaths should not be treating any of the conditions highlighted above because osteopathy has not been shown to be effective. If all osteopaths were complying with the regulations then there would be no incentive for Core Health Ltd to keep advertising these treatments. The fact that they are so keen to keep this misleading information on their site indicates that there must be osteopaths who are willing to carry out these treatments. Yet again this highlights the serious problems with the UK osteopathic profession. They are continuing to “treat” patients when it is entirely inappropriate for them to do so.

There is clearly a lot more for Core Health Ltd to do to bring their site in line with advertising standards for osteopathy. As I highlighted in my previous article osteopathy is only one of several areas of complementary and alternative medicine where their site makes misleading claims. Watch this space for more updates over the coming months!

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