Last year the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital was rebranded as the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (RLHIM). The exercise seems to have been entirely cosmetic. Sadly, they still practise the same nonsense, as described in Royal London Homeopathic Hospital rebranded. But how different will things be at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine?.
Recently I came across a totally disgraceful pamphlet issued by the RLHIM [download pamphlet].
If you haven’t come across craniosacral therapy (and who could blame you, a new form of nonsense is invented daily), try these sources.
In short, it is yet another weird invention of an eccentric American osteopath, dating from the 1930s. Like Osteopathy and Chiropractic, there is no ancient wisdom involved, just an individual with an eye for what makes money.
What the UCLH pamphlet claims
The claims made in this pamphlet are utterly baseless. In fact there isn’t the slightest evidence that craniosacral therapy is good for anything. And its ‘principles’ are pure nonsense.
No doubt that is why the Advertising Standards Authority has already delivered a damning indictment of rather similar claims made in a leaflet issued by the Craniosacral Therapy Association (CSTA)
The Advertising Standards judgement concluded
" . . the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies)."
"We noted that the CSTA believed that the leaflet was merely inviting readers to try CST to see if it could alleviate some of their symptoms and did not discourage them from seeing a doctor. However, we considered that the list of serious medical conditions in the ad, and the references to the benefit and help provided by CST, could encourage readers to use CST to relieve their symptoms rather than seek advice from a medical professional. We therefore concluded that the ad could discourage readers from seeking essential treatment for serious medical conditions from a qualified medical practitioner.
Complaint through the official channels. It took 3 months to extract “No comment” from Dr Gill Gaskin
Given that I have every reason to be grateful to UCL Hospitals for superb care, i was hesitant to leap into print to condemn the irresponsible pamphlet issued by one of their hospitals. It seemed better to go through the proper channels and make a complaint in private to the UCL Hospitals Trust.
On 21st December 2010 I wrote to the directors of UCLH Trust
I have just come across the attached pamphlet.
“Craniosacral” therapy is a preposterous made-up invention.
More to the point, there is no worthwhile evidence for the claims made in the pamphlet.
The leaflet is, I contend, illegal under the Consumer protection regulations 2008. It is also deeply embarrassing that UCLH should be lending its name to this sort of thing.
If you can think of any reason why I should not refer the pamphlet to the Advertising Standards Association, and to the office of Trading Standards, please let me know quickly.
On 7th January 2011 I got an acknowledgment, which told me that my letter had been forwarded to the Medical Director for Specialist Hospitals for a response.
The Specialist Hospitals of the Trust include the Eastman Dental Hospital, The Heart Hospital, The National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery (the famous Queen’s Square hospital) and, yes, The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. I’ve been a patient at three of them and have nothing but praise, Queen’s Square and the UCLH baby unit saved the life of my wife and my son in 1984 (see Why I love the National Health Service).
The Medical Director for Specialist Hospitals is Dr Gill Gaskin, and it is to her that my letter was forwarded. Of course it is not her fault that, in 2002, the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (as it then was) was acquired by the UCLH Trust in 2002, The excuse given at the time was that the space was needed and the nonsense espoused by the RLHH would be squeezed out. That hasn’t yet happened.
After that nothing happened so I wrote directly to Dr Gaskin on 14th February 2011
Dear Dr Gaskin
The letter below was sent to the Trust on 20 December last year. I am told it was forwarded to you. I’m disappointed that I have still had no reply, after almost two months. It was a serious enquiry and it has legal implications for the Trust. Would it help to talk about it in person?
I got a quick reply, but sadly, as so often, the complaint had simply been forwarded to the object of the complaint. This sort of buck-passing is standard procedure for heading off complaints in any big organisation, in my experience.
Cc: <email@example.com>, <Rachel.Maybank@uclh.nhs.uk>
Dear Professor Colquhoun
With best wishes
Dr Gill Gaskin
Specialist Hospitals Board
UCLH NHS Foundation Trust
I don’t know who wrote this self-serving nonsense because there is no sign on the web of a job called "Associate Clinical Director of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine".
It is absurd to say that the leaflet makes “makes no claims of efficacy”. It says "Craniosacral therapy can be offered to children and adults for a variety of conditions:" and then goes on to list a whole lot of conditions, some of which are potentially serious, like "Recurrent ear infections and sinus infections, glue ear " and "Asthma". Surely anyone would suppose that if a UCLH Hopsital were offering a treatment for conditions like these, there would be at least some evidence that they worked. And there is no such evidence. This reply seemed to me to verge on the dishonest.
Remember too that this response was written on 16th February 2011, long after the Advertising Standards Association had said that there is no worthwhile evidence for claims of this sort, on 8th September 2010.
I replied at once
Thanks for the reply, but I thought that this was your responsibility. Naturally the RLHIM will stick up for itself, so asking them gets us nowhere at all. The buck stops with the Trust (in particular with you, I understand) and it is for you to judge whether pamphlets such as that I sent bring the Trust into disrepute
. . ..
I’d be very pleased to hear your reaction (rather than that of the RLHIM) to these comments. It seems a reasonable thing to ask for, since responsibility for the RLHIM rests with you
On the 13th March, after a couple of reminders, Dr Gaskin said "I will respond to you tomorrow or Tuesday,". No such luck though. On 25th March, more than three months after I first wrote, I eventually got a reply (my emphasis).
I do not wish to comment further on the matter of the leaflets as a complaint to the advertising standards authority would be dealt with formally.
I am aware of your views on complementary medicine, and of course am entirely open to you pointing out areas where you believe there is misleading information, and I ask colleagues to review such areas when highlighted.
I would make several additional comments:
– patients are referred into NHS services by their GPs (or occasionally by consultants in other services) and cannot self-refer
– patients attending the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine report positively on NHS Choices
– GPs continue to make referrals to the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine and many request that patients stay under follow-up, when UCLH seeks to reconfirm this
– UCLH is engaging with North Central London NHS commissioners on work on their priorities, and that includes work on complementary medicine (and combinations of conventional and complementary approaches)
I think you will understand that I will not wish to engage in lengthy correspondence, and have many other competing priorities at present.
With best wishes
So, after three months’ effort, all I could get was ‘no comment‘, plus some anecdotes about satisfied customers -the stock in trade of all quacks.
I guess it is well known that complaints against any NHS organisation normally meet with a stonewall. That happens with any big organisation (universities too). Nevertheless it strikes me as dereliction of duty to respond so slowly, and in the end to say nothing anyway.
The Advertising Standards Authority have already given their judgement, and it appears to be based on sounder medicine than Dr Gaskin’s ‘reply’..
There are plans afoot to refer the UCLH pamphlet to the the Office of Trading Standards.IIt is for them to decide whether to prosecute the UCLH Trust for making false health claims. It is sad to have to say that they deserve to be prosecuted.
28 March 2011. Two days after this post went up, a Google search for “Dr Gill Gaskin” brought up this post as #5 on the first page. Amazing.
On 25 May, the same search alluded to this post in positions 2, 3, 4 and 5 on the first page of Google.
29 June 2013
Despite several judgements by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against claims made for craniosacral therapy, nothing was done.
But after UCLH Trust was comprehensively condemned by the ASA for the claims made for acupuncture by the RLHIM, at last we got action. All patient pamphlets have been withdrawn, and patient information is being revised.
. It isn’t obvious why this has taken more that two years (and one can only hope that the revised information will be more accurate)