UK regulation

In the UK, chiropractors are regulated by statute. The Chiropractors Act 1994 set up the General Chiropractic Council and gave them the responsibility of regulating chiropractors. Their main duties are:

  • To protect the public by establishing and operating a scheme of statutory regulation for chiropractors, similar to the arrangements that cover other health professionals
  • To set the standards of chiropractic educationconduct and practice
  • To ensure the development of the profession of chiropractic, using a model of continuous improvement in practice

It is interesting to note that:

Since 14 June 2001 the title of ‘chiropractor’ has been protected by law and it is a criminal offence for anyone to describe themselves as any sort of chiropractor without being registered with the GCC.

It should be noted that ‘doctor’ is not protected title under law.

Code of Practice

The GCC have a Code of Practice and Standard of Proficiency that all chiropractors have to abide by as part of their regulation. This covers many areas of practice and conduct, including how they are allowed to advertise their services:

C1 Chiropractors must act with integrity and never abuse their professional standing.

Specifically chiropractors:

C1.6 may publicise their practices or permit another person to do so consistent with the law and the guidance issued by the Advertising Standards Authority. If chiropractors, or others on their behalf, do publicise, the information used must be factual and verifiable. The information must not be misleading or inaccurate in any way. It must not, in any way, abuse the trust of members of the public nor exploit their lack of experience or knowledge about either health or chiropractic matters. It must not put pressure on people to use chiropractic.29

29 For example, by arousing ill-founded fear for their future health.

This binds chiropractors to the guidance issued by the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA have issued the following guidance on chiropractic:

Chiropractors are regulated by statute and may refer to serious medical conditions if they hold convincing evidence of the efficacy of their treatments. To date, the only serious medical condition to which CAP and the ASA accept chiropractors may refer is migraine (not headaches). But CAP has accepted in the past that chiropractors may claim to help: aches and pains, arthritic pain, backache, back pain, circulatory problems, cramp, digestion problems, joint pains, lumbago, muscle spasms, neuralgia, fibromyalgia, inability to relax, rheumatic pain, rheumatism, minor sports injuries and tension (see General List in the Help Note on Health, Beauty and Slimming Marketing Communications that Refers to Medical Conditions). Practitioners claiming to treat such conditions would be expected to hold evidence.

Some practitioners believe chiropractic helps the short-term treatment of acute low-back pain (not sciatica) and headaches. To date, we have not seen evidence that the therapy can help but the evidence we have seen so far on its efficacy is scant and our position could change.

However, the ASA guidance also includes adjudications they have made and there is a comprehensive list of these adjudications on Zeno’s Blog.