I wrote this letter to Andy Burnham a minister at the Department of Health and Christine Cook at the Privy Council and sent a copy to each member of the General Chiropractic Council. None of them wanted to get involved.
As this is a copy of the letter I did send to the DOH I did not think I should alter it now even though some of my opinions have changed.
Andy Burnham MP
The Department of Health
London SW1A 2NS
Dear Mr Burnham
I would like to draw to the attention of the Department of Health, how in my opinion the General Chiropractic Council(GCC) is failing in its statutory duty to the public and the chiropractic profession. I would remind the DOH what Kenneth Allen a civil servant from the DOH said to the chiropractic profession on the 9th April 1994, when addressing the BCA Conference
“While the profession has begun to come together in a small way at one level, through the registration Steering Group, there is a very real concern that, by and large, only a temporary ceasefire has been called between the warring factions in the profession while the Bill is before parliament. What is required is tangible evidence and increasing signs that once the Bill is safely through, things will not go back to as they were a few years ago, or that if one faction were to gain a majority on the General Council, it would not use its clout to force out anyone they don’t like, or dictate standards to the profession. Let me remove any doubt, going back to ‘how things were’ is not an option. For a start, the Privy Council will oversee the General council to ensure that the spirit as well as the letter of the law is observed”
It has become an increasing concern among chiropractors like myself that the General Chiropractic Council (the “GCC”) has failed and is failing in its statutory duty to “develop, promote and regulate the chiropractic profession” (Section 1(2) of the Chiropractors Act 1994. As a result the profession is now more polarised than it has ever been. My opinion has been reinforced by the findings of a survey of the chiropractic profession published today which found that 77.1% (of respondents 51%) have no confidence in the GCC.
Whilst I recognise that the GCC has a duty to protect the public, the GCC has been overzealous in its regulation of the chiropractic profession. A number of vexatious cases have been rigorously pursued by the Investigating Committee, only to be dismissed by the Professional Conduct Committee of the GCC. These cases have resulted in not only a financial cost to the GCC itself ( £106, 617 for 2005 alone) but also to the profession as a whole through increased insurance premia. More importantly, the chiropractors at the centre of these allegations have suffered greatly emotionally and indeed some of these chiropractors who I have spoken to have suffered health problems as a result.
Details of unproven allegations are published on the GCC’s website, even when an interim suspension order is not in place. Indeed, it is a common perception among chiropractors where charges against them have been dismissed, that the presumption appeared to be “guilty until proven innocent”.
Monica Handa is a registered chiropractor who was under investigation for almost two years. In April 2006 she was found not guilty of unprofessional conduct. In December 2005 she posted a message on an internet discussion forum “how about the cost to the chiropractor, especially if the case drags on as it does in a number of cases? Bearing in mind the patient makes no financial gain, how does the cost to the chiropractor measure up? There’s the stress of receiving the notification, the stress of talking to Greg Price (and getting the distinct impression he’s got no compassion – guilty until proven innocent) the hours spent preparing a response…The physical and emotional impact is immeasurable”
Ms Handa may have experienced some of this stress and lack of compassion when Mr Price’s refused to adjourn her hearing because she was breast feeding a new born infant and would have difficulty spending four full days at the GCC offices. Imagine her surprise then to be told that solicitors for the GCC Addleshaw Goddard (AG) had been informed by GCC officers that there was “no truth whatsoever in her comments on the discussion forum, which AG asserted were seriously defamatory of Mr Price and very damaging to his personal and professional reputation” and that Ms Handa was liable to Mr Price for defamation and malicious falsehood.
In mid January the GCC agreed to hire AG, in my opinion to intimidate chiropractors and censor criticism of the GCC and its officers. AG stated their action was to protect the reputations of two employees of the GCC; Ms Coates, the registrar; and the other executive officer, Gregory Price. I find this hard to believe because on December 13th 2005, I informed Ms Coates of the existence of this discussion forum, because salacious rumours had been posted about the chairman of the GCC, I felt these rumours should be denied and removed from the site. However Ms Coates allowed these rumours to promulgate on the internet. Indeed she made no effort what so ever to have any of these postings removed from the website, choosing instead to hire expensive solicitors to do it at a later date by which time the postings had been removed and her closest assistant had finished his activities on the site (Appendix 1).
I do not know if this information was made known to council members when they decided to instruct AG to start defamation proceedings against members of the discussion forum, www.chiropractic-uk.info Initially the GCC requested that over 70 postings be removed on the grounds that they were defamatory and requested the ISP data of 17 people who had posted on this website. I had written twenty of these postings and refused their request to remove them. It was then pointed out to AG that some of the postings had been made from a computer at the GCC ofices and that one of the members they wished to identify was in fact a GCC officer passing himself off as a registered chiropractor in breach of Section 32 of the Act. On being made aware of our knowledge of this the GCC reduced the numbers of the people they wished to contact to three members of the discussion forum.
A person using the same pseudonym as this GCC officer “Cognitio” has made many postings on a number of anti-chiropractic websites promoting the work of the GCC in the UK. I believe this person to be Greg Price until recently an executive officer of the GCC. Price was recruited by Ms Margaret Coates and according to his testimony to the PCC in May 2002, he would surf the internet and refer chiropractic material he was concerned about to Ms Coates. On this occasion Ms Coates claims he never informed her of his rather innovative methods to promote the GCC and she never questioned what he was doing for hours at a time on the internet.
Failure to Regulate:
In January 2002 I wrote to the Presidents of the four British chiropractic associations informing them of the efforts a chiropractor had made to coerce £2,000 from a young woman who had contacted me for a second opinion as to whether she needed twelve months of treatment for a stiff neck as her mother was seeking a bank loan to pay for the treatment. Three association Presidents agreed I should report the chiropractor to the GCC which I did giving them the patients contact details.
However the patient was never contacted by the GCC. In January 2006 I contacted the GCC after a chiropractor had been struck off for a similar offence asking why they had not contacted my patient. Greg Price’s explanation was “you failed to respond to correspondence from the GCC and in particular to clarify whether information you had disclosed in respect to a patient had been disclosed lawfully. As a result , the Investigating Committee (IC) was unable to take matters further”. This was not true, I did respond after returning from a trip to Cuba telling him that the patient was happy to co-operate with a GCC investigation and make a statement, I did think it was odd that he asked if I had investigated the case fully. Nevertheless if the IC thought I had breached patient confidentiality, why was the patient not contacted. I asked Price again in January 2006. I was told IC deliberations are not available under Freedom of Information Act. The chief executive of the BCA has also recieved complaints from another members of the public about this chiropractor.
Accordingly the GCC failed in their statutory duty to protect the public or at the very least investigate the allegations. The GCC did nothing, yet they are happy to spend thousands of pounds trying to find out who the poster “bones” is because bones agreed with a posting of mine stating Ms Coates was being economical with the truth regarding the vote of confidence in the chairman of the GCC in December.
Lack of Integrity
The Fitness to Practice report for 2005 states how essential it is for chiropractors to recognise professional boundaries with patients. “Chiropractors are in a position of power and trust and because of this patients are vulnerable. This is why the GCC’s code of practice emphasis the principle that chiropractors must never ‘abuse their professional standing’ The piece goes on to state “Chiropractors also need to apply their good sense. This includes using your understanding and insight to identify professional boundariess. Good advice however it begs the question how can Mike Kondracki sit on our Professional Conduct Committee when it is common knowledge that over many years he demonstrated a lack of understanding and insight to identify professional boundaries with his female students. The AECC principal Professor Kliger eventually had to warn Mike Kondracki about his behaviour. Now if people of questionable character are refused registration why are they on the GCC council. Which brings me to another council member David Byfield.
While a GCC member in 2003 David Byfield made a complaint against me. What was interesting about this complaint was that he quoted an infringement of the GCC code of practice but made the complaint to the BCA. The BCA Disciplinary Committee decided on April 2003 that it would not consider allegations of breaches of the GCC’s code of practice, that these “can only be dealt with by the GCC”. However Byfield ignored their advice and appealed their decision to the BCA council. Surely it is somewhat surprising that a member of the GCC Council was insisting that the BCA Council deal with his complaint rather than pursue it through the proper GCC channels. Perhaps like the chiropractors surveyed he lacks confidence in the GCC’s ability to deal with complaints? More likely Byfield did not want other GCC members to know that since December 2000 he had made a series of complaints against me which in my opinion bordered on harassment . On eight occasions I have had to face disciplinary hearings based on lies and hear say from David Byfield. In fact the only time I have been found guilty of anything was when he complained to the BCA that I told other chiropractors about the allegations he was making against me.
David Byfield is entitled to his opinion. What I object to is that he is not impartial and should not be involved in regulating chiropractors who do no subscribe to his view of the chiropractic profession. In 2002 he was asked to produce an expert report for the GCC Professional Conduct Committee. The Report was originally presented as the charges against a registered BCA chiropractor Jesper Jensen. Who was accused of misleading the public on a website despite the fact no member of the public had been mislead. Byfields Report contained many quotes from Jesper Jensen’s website that were materially inaccurate thirty seven times . This happened as he attempted to make the charges presented against Jensen seem more serious.
For example, Jensen did not state the Vertebral Subluxation Complex theory was “the view
held by the entire profession” as claimed by Byfield’s in his report, or that “chiropractors completely cure bedwetting by spinal manipulation”. or “The Vertebral Subluxation complex is the only cause of sciatica”
Another trick was to leave out a word to changed the meaning. Byfield stated for Dr Jensen to say the “birth process is a traumatic, crippling event, is ludicrous at best”. The actual statement read “The birth process is potentially a traumatic, crippling event”,
In another section of the website Dr Jensen pointed out how parents could be hurting their child’s spine and nervous system, by “ moderate shaking ”, “playfully throwing the child up in the air and catching them”, or even smacking, this was described by Jensen as the kind activities that could cause vertebral subluxations. Dr Jensen recommendation was that children should have their spines checked. Byfield presented this information in his report as it being wrong for Jensen to suggest that “abused children or children subjected to potentially violent behaviour need a spinal check up by a chiropractor, rather than being referred to the appropriate authorities”.
David Byfield also made eighteen criticisms of Jesper Jensen views in his report, which contradicted views expressed by Byfield and others in his book “Chiropractic Manipulative Skills”. It concerns me that a GCC’s expert who is now a member of the GCC, sits on the education committee, and interview panel, a senior academic who professes to subscribe to the evidence based protocol, and who the public expect to be impartial, wandered far from the reality of the evidence and presented his text as fact in a report that could have had disastrous consequences for a colleague.
In the transcript of the hearing, Alison Foster, the barrister for the GCC, stated in her summing up that “Dr Byfield accepted that there were some ‘errors’ in his report (thirty seven).” This led Jensen’s barrister, David Evans, to state in his summing up “It is he ( Byfield) who has been inaccurate here in his enthusiasm to argue the musculoskeletal case and express his contempt for the philosophical approach.” (GCC transcript day 5 page 22) he went on to add that Byfield’s view was based on “dogma and not on reason.”
When Peter Dixon became acting chairman of the GCC, I raised these issues in the form of a complaint against David Byfield. On April 28 2006 Peter Dixon completed his “investigation” stating “I can see no material evidence of bias on behalf of Dr Byfield, and the role of an expert witness is to provide an opinion. In that capacity I consider that Dr Byfield performed his duties in an honest an objective manner. I therefore do not agree that he is unfit to perform his duties as a member of the GCC”. It could be just a coincidence that manipulating evidence is seem as honest an objective when Peter Dixon is hoping for Byfield’s vote and be elected chairman of the GCC on June 1st 2006.
The fact is there is no independent mechanism for investigating complaints against officers of the GCC. The Council is split along partisan lines and complaints are unlikely to succeed against those sitting on the chairman’s side of the table in the current climate. Perhaps this why according to the GCC only 12 complaints have ever been made against officers of the GCC. While I believe many more have been made to the privy council.
Richard Rumary a BCA chiropractor with a law degree highlighted the problem when he resigned from the GCC in 2000, he wrote to me “the great problem was that, so long as I remained a member of council, I had no way of making known to the outside world, that I did not agree with many things which the GCC was doing. There is no mechanism for publishing dissent in the way of a minority opinion; you are stuck with the convention of collective responsibility – and if you are not prepared to accept that convention, then there is no alternative but for you to resign”. Otherwise GCC rules provide council members with the option to remove dissenters by voting them off the council. Dissenters who wish to remain on council have no option but to tow the majority line.
This farcical situation cannot be allowed to continue. The GCC are damaging the credibility of the profession for years to come and they have no solution to a divided profession, a crisis of their own making.
Richard Lanigan DC. MSc. Public Health and Health Promotion
( A registered chiropractor, I am not a member of any association. Trained at the Anglo European College of Chiropractic (AECC) 91-96
President of the AECC student Union 94-96)
CC: Christine Cook: Privy Council Office.
Paul Simpson MP
Members of the GCC