Thursday, May 28, 2009

"As part of our commitment to transparency, we are becoming less transparent" - Ofquack

This is how the CNHC website looked on May 21st 2009 and here's how it looks now - see the difference?

I had previously written to Ben Bradshaw MP regarding CNHC, got a largely unsatisfactory reply and have to-ed and fro-ed again since then.

One of my main issues was that the quack health lobby group, Prince Charles' Foundation for Integrated Health, had received £900,000 of Dept of Health funding (my and your taxes) to set up CNHC and yet, they were being opaque as to their operations. Seemingly by mistake, a CNHC staff member put the minutes of the Nov 08 meeting on the web, which contained discussions about 'misinformation on a blog' and infiltrating websites to promote CNHC. I should point out that the CNHC have stated the minutes were not OK-ed by the board and contained inaccuracies. At the time of writing, those minutes are still available on the CNHC website here(.doc file).

The website (shown above) continued to state until May 21st 09 that
In order to meet our commitment to transparency, CNHC will make the minutes of board meetings appear here.
Rubbish. The Nov 08 minutes (and previous) never 'officially' appeared, nor did the Feb 09. From a letter I've seen from the Dept of Health, it appears that at the Feb 09 meeting, a decision was made not to put the minutes on the website, but instead
a synopsis of items for discussion and decision would be put on the website.
Seemingly, no need to update the website though.

It's also interesting to note how many therapists are registered. Or it would be, if you could find out. Ever since a public spat (pdf) with the General Regulatory Council of Complimetary Therapies (splitters....), even the potential number of sign-ups was always going to be difficult to establish. The CNHC also seem unable to provide an answer because they allow industry bodies to upload blocks of therapists - despite an FoI request response from the Dept of Health, which stated
the [Professional Associations]cannot register their members with the CNHC. Rather, individual practitioners have to apply to the CNHC if they wish to be admitted to the
More muddle and confusion. One of the CNHC key objectives is to register 10,000 therapists by end of 2009, although I'm lead to believe the number is currently around 2,000.

So it seems the commitment to transparency has been discreetly removed - the new webpage on the CNHC website has dropped its 'commitment to transparency' tag (along with the word 'minutes') and replaced it with heavily edited meeting notes which contain such salacious gems as
Various amendments and changes were agreed.
How useful.

I never did find out what they did with that £900,000.



  1. heh - what a mess! can't rememeber whether you've already done this, but is it worth asking for a breakdown of expenditure regarding the £900,000 under the Freedom of Information Act? Bradshaw may have been evasive in relation to efficacy but they cannot be evasive in telling us how they spent our money.

    anyway, just a thought - I doubt any of this would help make Ofquack any more transparent or helpful!

  2. @Teekblog

    They are a private company, and therefore the FOIA doesn't apply to them.

    However, this means that they do have to file their accounts with Companies House.

    Unfortunately, those accounts aren't due until around April 2010... :(

  3. I don't think the figures are anywhere near 2,000. Last I heard it was around 300 or so, and some of those were duplicates (e.g.same person registering for 2 disciplines).

  4. Hi Sean,

    You may be right, although the number came from an (private) CNHC source.

    Given their disregard for transparency, it's hard to know how much weight it holds.


  5. "They are a private company, and therefore the FOIA doesn't apply to them."

    So the govt can give nearly a million quid to a private company and there is absolutely no accountability about what happens to it?

  6. Doesn't seem fair, does it? Nonetheless, Ofquack have written about "transparence" and their commitment to it, so I think a push on that front might still be worthwhile.

  7. Half a dozen of us are pushing in various ways. There are four FoIA requests outstanding and I am having an exchange of emails with Board Chair Maggy Wallace though this hasn't produced much so far.