The random thoughts of a sceptical activist

Pulling up the drawbridge

Some things at least happen quickly at the General Chiropractic Council (GCC).

The GCC have recently co-opted someone else to their Investigating Committee (IC). He is Kalim Mehrabi, who is a Director of the McTimoney College of Chiropractic, a colleague of the College’s Principal, Christina Cunliffe who sits of the GCC’s Council.

So, the GCC’s Investigating Committee now has 11 members, with seven chiropractors and four lay members:

Sheila Hollingworth (Chair)
Kathryn Adams chiropractor (BCA member)
Graham Donald (Deputy Chair)
Carl Gardner
Anthony Kerrigan chiropractor
Jane McKenzie-Riley chiropractor
Helen Kitchen (co-opted, GCC legal advisor)
Aaron Coode chiropractor (co-opted, BCA member and works for the AECC)
Amanda Jones-Harris chiropractor (co-opted, BCA member and works for the AECC)
Kenneth Vall chiropractor (co-opted, BCA member and Principal of the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic)
Kalim Mehrabi chiropractor (co-opted and Director of the McTimoney College of Chiropractic)

Committee rules

The rules that govern the composition of the IC are given in the General Chiropractic Council (Constitution of the Statutory Committees) Rules Order of Council 2009. This states that the composition of the IC shall be: three lay persons, appointed by the GCC’s Council; five chiropractors, also appointed by the Council and a maximum of five others co-opted by the Council.

What they have at present are the three lay persons, three appointed chiropractors out of the five they are allowed and their full quota of five others co-opted. Note that the rules say nothing about whether any co-optee has to be a chiropractor or a lay member, but the Council have obviously packed in as many chiropractors as they are allowed. I wonder whether they will fill the remaining two chiropractic vacancies? Perhaps we’ll be told when they issue the public minutes of their Council meeting of 18 August (although there was nothing about this on their public agenda)?

The rules also say:

Disqualification from appointment to any statutory committee

12. A person is disqualified from appointment as a member of a statutory committee if that person—

(j) is subject to an investigation or proceedings concerning—

(i) the person’s conduct, professional competence or health by the General Council…

and the General Council is satisfied that the person’s membership of the statutory committee would be liable to undermine public confidence in the regulation of registered chiropractors;

This is about being appointed to committees such as the IC, but that last requirement is interesting: a chiropractor who is the subject of a complaint can still be appointed to the IC as long as the Council doesn’t think his/her appointment might be liable to undermine public confidence in the GCC!

However, only one member of the IC is on my complaints list — Kathryn Adams — and she was appointed some time ago, before my complaint. Wasn’t she? According to various cached versions of the GCC’s Committees page, she had a period a few months ago where she wasn’t on the IC. In the minutes of the GCC’s Council meeting held on 12 February 2009, it was announced that she had been appointed to the IC: this was also stated in their April newsletter. However, she mysteriously disappeared from the Committee page on the GCC’s website on 23 July 2009 and 04 August 2009 (cached versions). She has since been reinstated.

Anyway, is there a rule that prevents someone who is the subject of a complaint being on the IC?

The rules say:

Removal of statutory committee members from office

13.—(1) A member of a statutory committee shall be removed from office by the General Council if—…

Well, what it doesn’t say is that any chiropractor who becomes the subject of a complaint has to be removed from the IC.

However, the rules have the following  as a reason for disqualifying a committee member:

(k) the General Council is satisfied that the member’s continued membership of the statutory committee would be liable to undermine public confidence in the regulation of registered chiropractors.

I wonder what it would take for the GCC to remove someone from the IC, or to disqualify someone from being appointed to the IC? What would undermine public confidence in the GCC’s ability to properly and fairly regulate chiropractors, remembering their duty to protect the public.

Anyway, there is a section in the rules on suspension from a statutory committee that does state that a member can be suspended while the ‘Council is considering whether or not it is satisfied as to the matters set out in rule…(k)’. He/she may or may not be suspended under this rule, but the rules also allow for a member to be suspended if:

(c) if the member is subject to any investigation or proceedings concerning—

(i) the member’s conduct, professional competence or health by the General Council…

and the General Council is satisfied that it would not be appropriate for the member to continue to participate in the work of the statutory committee while the investigation is or proceedings are ongoing.

All down to what the Council thinks is ‘appropriate’.

Kathryn Adams is a chiropractor at The Chiropractors of Windsor Remedy Centre and is a BCA member, along with her fellow chiropractors at that establishment: Russell Dean, Storm Singleton and Simon Wood. Doesn’t the Council think that a person who is the subject of a complaint and who works in the same office as three others that are also the subject of complaints continuing on the IC would undermine public confidence?

The BCA club

What about the issue of four BCA members sitting on the IC deciding whether there is a case to answer for the 500-odd BCA members (half their membership) I’ve complained about. We should be in no doubt that the beleaguered BCA will be wanting to pull up the drawbridge! So is it right that the cases of BCA members are judged by fellow BCA members? Will they be impartial, but will they also be seen to be impartial? If they are not seen to be impartial, that would certainly ‘undermine public confidence in the regulation of registered chiropractors’.

Is this something the GCC is really concerned about or are these things just not under their control? Out of the current 48 members of the various statutory committees, 24 are chiropractors and 12 of those are BCA members. If you were wanting to appear independent and in control, would you choose this situation, particularly co-opting yet more BCA members to your Investigating Committee? It just doesn’t look good, does it?

The AECC and other clubs

Then there’s the problem of three of the IC members being employed by the AECC and another one by McTimoney College of Chiropractic.

Kenneth Vall is more than just an employee: he’s their Principal and is also a Director of the AECC. Similarly, Kalim Mehrabi is a Director of McTimoney.

What might happen if even just some of the complaints made by either me or others succeed? What if half the complaints are upheld? All of them?

However many, based on previous experience, it is possible that the news of this will travel far and wide, perhaps even to main stream media. Can you see the headlines?

Will potential students be reconsidering whether they want to take up chiropractic as a career? What might the effect be on the intake of new students to the AECC? What pressure might this put on those serving on the IC, making decisions about whether there is a case to answer for each of the complaints?

Undermining public confidence

Should the GCC’s Council not be concerned about whether such a situation might be liable to undermine public confidence in the regulation of registered chiropractors? If they are concerned, why have they just co-opted these BCA, AECC and McTimoney College people? They might have had more credibility in carrying out their duty to protect the public if they had co-opted more lay people.

Who knows. But it does look like the GCC are trying to cover all bases.

Expertise required

They are certainly bringing out the big guns of the chiropractic world. But they are not needed: the real expertise required is not in chiropractic, but knowing about the Advertising Standards Authority guidance and understanding how the ASA apply this guidance — the guidance that the GCC’s CoP says all chiropractors have to adhere to and the guidance against which my complaints must be judged.

To help understand the ASA’s guidance, I’ve provided a handy guide in various recent posts (with more to come):

When only the best will do
I see, it’s not who you are…
A claim or not a claim: that is the question
Another ASA win against quackery
Advertising Standards Authority adjudications are fascinating!
These are the rules, nothing more, nothing less
What chiroquacktors are allowed to claim
What the ASA have to say about chiroquacktic

Kathryn Adams (2110)
Russell Dean (65)
Storm Singleton (1755)
Simon Wood (2870)Kathryn Adams (2110)

Russell Dean (65)

Storm Singleton (1755)

Simon Wood (2870)

7 Responses to Pulling up the drawbridge

  • It’s late at night, so all I can think of to say is that they’re ducking out in case any laymen walking in realise they are all quackers.

  • I realise my comment is only loosely related to the actual topic under discussion here, but I think you’ll excuse me.

    Anyway, I guess we’ve all read the claim that chiropractic will help you live longer? It turns out that this has actually been testsed empirically! And the answer is a statistically significant no!

    The paper is Morgan, L. (2004). Does Chiropractic ‘Add Years to Life’? J Can Chiropr Assoc 2004; 48(3)

  • As Chiroquactic is a fundamentlist religion, (in a very thin disguise), it is no surprise to me that they slavishly copy the example of the Vatican when ‘investigating’ clear offenses by their privileged hierarchy.

  • Don’t worry, I think they may have a better understanding of ASA guidance in due course.

  • my solicitor applied to be co-opted, she’s brilliant and works in litigation, however for some reason she’s obviously not fit to be a member as she would be intelligent, educated, bright and have an unbiased oppinion.

    With the previous case law and GCC tribunals regarding breaches in the adversiting standards, the BCA lot should get three months suspension as well as a test of competence as was handed down to Warren Gage in 2004. Within this trial the defence barristers showed that the BCA and the GCC were in fact in breach of the standards themselves, which is what they were claiming of Dr Gage, but they chose to ignore it, and vilify this one doctor instead of perhaps asking him to change his material. That is their mode of attack, to destroy one persons livelyhood, especially if they are not part of the club. Richard Brown was the expert witness for the GCC.

    in late 2004/2005 I specifically asked Margaret Coates if the GCC could create an advertising committee or help line that would help chiropractors make sure they were within the standards, so doctors would feel confident to run the information by a committee and know that they were well represented, and the GCC refuse, actually Margaret herself refused right there and then, this has been minutes in the CSWG meetings at the time.

  • Let’s not forget that the McTim Associates conveniently exited stage left by warning their members to destroy all their brochures, close down their websites and cleanse internet search entries, leaving the BCAs to fight the cause. It seems unbelievable that they can then show their faces in an investigative role!

    On that basis and from past experience, I reliably predict that the McRepresentative will hunt with the GCC hounds rather than run with the fox.

    Furthermore, I am reliably informed that Kalim Mehrabi will be the subject of investigation himself in the near future so we will soon find out how the talking shop all works in practice.

    Chiropolitics is most intriguing.

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