Challenging misleading healthcare claims.

Announcement

Misinformation about complementary and alternative therapies is rife on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines and on the high street and this misinformation misleads the public. It is particularly important that the public have accurate information about healthcare so they can make informed choices.

This misleading information won't disappear by itself: it needs to be challenged.

Complaints about chiropractors' website claims, made by Alan Henness, Simon Perry and others, have shown that it is possible to confront and highlight misleading information, have it withdrawn and those responsible held to account.

The Nightingale Collaboration will continue this work and will share knowledge and best practice with others and give them support and encouragement.

Florence Nightingale is well known for her commitment to using robust evidence to decide what worked in improving healthcare. As the first woman to be elected to the Royal Statistical Society and on the centenary of her death in 1910, the Nightingale Collaboration acknowledges her great legacy.

Aims

The Nightingale Collaboration will work to improve the protection of the public by ensuring claims made about complementary and alternative therapies are not misleading. We will do this by:

  • challenging misleading claims made by practitioners on their websites, in adverts and in their promotional and sales materials and subjecting these to scrutiny by the appropriate regulatory bodies;
  • striving to ensure that organisations representing complementary and alternative practitioners have robust codes of conduct for their members that protect the public and that these are rigorously enforced.

Methods

There are several different methods of working that will be used to achieve the Aims:

A. Nightingale Collaboration Campaigns: conducted by Nightingale Collaboration personnel, gathering information, planning and executing the campaign, with the support of volunteers where required. This type of campaign would clearly be carried out in the name of the Nightingale Collaboration.

B. Associated Campaigns: we will collaborate with volunteers on campaigns by providing advice and guidance to ensure maximum impact and probability of success. These campaigns will be publicised as being conducted in association with the Nightingale Collaboration.

C. The Nightingale Collaboration will make tools and resources available so that others can pursue their own individual campaigns with maximum effect. These campaigns will be entirely separate from the Nightingale Collaboration.

Volunteer Collaboration

Volunteer roles

There will be differing roles for volunteers, allowing for varying levels of commitment. Volunteers will be able to contribute according to their skills and whatever time commitment suits them.

It will be very much a collaborative effort.

Possible tasks include:

1. Locating misleading information, whether that is on the Internet, in national or local press, in local clinics, etc.

2. Gathering this misleading information in a legal and diligent manner.

3. Coordinating local campaigns.

4. Submitting complaints to the appropriate regulatory bodies.

Volunteer training

The Nightingale Collaboration will provide training for key volunteers to help them in their roles.

Tools and resources

There will be Nightingale Collaboration tools, resources, advice and guidance available to volunteers, some of which will also be publicly available to anyone who wants to act wholly independently.

Code of Conduct

There will be a code of conduct on how we obtain information and how we deal with others so we maintain the moral high ground and keep within the law. All personnel and volunteers will be required to abide by it.

Experts

We will have access to various experts who can advise us on legal matters and supply authoritative advice on scientific evidence to use in our campaigns.

The Nightingale Collaboration

The Nightingale Collaboration must be seen to be ethical, legal, authoritative, thorough and tenacious. This is so that we attract good volunteers and so that the Nightingale Collaboration is taken seriously — providers of misinformation must be clearly aware that we mean business. We must gain a reputation for effectiveness.

More information will be released on the website over the coming weeks and months. To be kept informed, please subscribe to our Newsletter and follow @NightingaleC on Twitter.

Alan Henness & Maria MacLachlan

Directors, The Nightingale Collaboration

October 2010

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