ASA upholds our complaint against osteopath claiming to treat paediatric conditions

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld our complaint against osteopath Nicholas Handoll (t/a Hereford Clinic of Osteopathy and Complementary Medicine). He has continued to make misleading advertising claims regarding a range of infant and childhood conditions, despite clear warnings from regulators.

A page entitled “Infants and Children” stated:

Osteopaths are first-contact practitioners, trained to undertake an initial consultation with any patient, at any age. There are many ways in which parents express concern for their children’s welfare. Some describe symptoms or conditions such as inconsolable crying and distress, colic, reflux, unsettled child, poor feeding, wind, sleeping problems, glue ear, painful ears, breathing difficulties, nasal congestion, recurrent infections, poor concentration, disruptive behaviour, aggression, head pain, misshapen head, plagiocephaly, Down’s syndrome.

The ASA concluded that the implied efficacy claims had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading.

The ruling was published today on the ASA website.

For more than two years, we have been monitoring osteopathy advertising and encouraging regulators to act against claims to treat infant and childhood conditions.

The General Osteopathic Council and ASA have already warned osteopaths against advertising to treat various paediatric conditions. They have also issued clear and detailed guidance on osteopathy advertising.

Despite these measures, we estimate that hundreds of osteopaths are still making similar problematic advertising claims. Even the Institute of Osteopathy, the UK’s professional body for osteopaths, has struggled to keep their advertising in check.

Today’s ruling by the ASA is an opportunity for the GOsC to highlight to their registrants that misleading advertising is unacceptable. If the GOsC take seriously their duty to regulate osteopaths, they will take action to ensure the claims made by their registrants are not in breach of advertising rules, and are not misleading the public.

We originally reported Handoll to the GOsC, but that complaint was put on hold while they sought advice from the ASA. At the time of writing, he has still not removed the problematic advertising content from his website. We await further news from the GOsC regarding our unresolved complaint.

UPDATE (15/08/17): Nicholas Handoll was placed on the ASA list of non-compliant online advertisers on 14th August 2017.