Regulator removes osteopath from register following our complaint against misleading claims

The General Osteopathic Council has found Nicholas Handoll guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and has directed that his name be removed from the Register of Osteopaths.

We reported Handoll to the GOsC in November 2015, highlighting misleading advertising claims regarding paediatric conditions.

A webpage 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 GOsC contacted Handoll, urging him to ensure that his advertising complied with their Standards and with advertising guidance. Handoll failed to amend the advertising and the GOsC passed the complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA upheld the complaint and placed Handoll on their list of non-compliant online advertisers.

As a result of Handoll’s decision not to comply with the ASA’s ruling, the GOsC referred the matter to their Professional Conduct Committee.

Handoll is now unable to practise as an osteopath.

The GOsC’s Chief Executive and Registrar, Tim Walker, said:

All osteopaths must ensure that their advertising meets the requirements of the law. Nick Handoll deliberately chose to disregard those requirements and has borne the consequences. It is a sad end to his career as an osteopath.

We welcome this decision and hope that it will serve as a clear warning to those osteopaths still making misleading and potentially harmful claims.

Since 2015, we have reported over 400 osteopaths to the GOsC. Almost all the complaints were resolved in the early stages when the osteopaths concerned amended their websites. The GOsC and ASA also warned all osteopaths against advertising to treat various paediatric conditions and issued clear and detailed guidance on osteopathy advertising.

We believe there has been a significant improvement in osteopathy advertising as a result of our campaign, but there is still some way to go. In 2015, we found around one in three osteopaths were making misleading advertising claims. Our latest estimates suggest around one in six osteopaths are still making misleading claims on their websites.

This small but significant minority of osteopaths should now be aware that if they disregard advertising guidelines they could be removed from the register.

We will continue to monitor osteopathy advertising and will raise concerns with regulators where appropriate.

You can read the full hearing decision at