A Letter to Oxfordshire County Council Education Services

Ms X
Head of Adult Education Services
Oxfordshire County Council

22 November 2008

Dear Ms X

I was interested to read the section on complementary therapies in the latest brochure of Oxfordshire County Council adult education services. I hope you are willing to answer a few questions.

A frequent criticism of practitioners of complementary therapies is that they often claim to be able to cure particular medical conditions even when there is no evidence to support what they are saying. For example, on page 42 you are offering a course in kinesiology a belief system which has no basis in science. What steps does Oxfordshire County Council take to ensure tutors on complementary medicine courses are not making false or fraudulent claims about the treatments they offer? Indeed, how do you recruit tutors?

You are doubtless aware of the case of Dawn Page who suffered brain damage after visiting the Oxfordshire nutritional therapist, Barbara Nash. (See http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/2380792.detox_diet_led_to_brain_damage/ to read the full story.) I note that you are offering courses led by a local nutritional therapist. If any harm were to befall a student following advice given by one of your tutors the council might possibly be held liable. At the very least I think you should consider adding a disclaimer to the courses, something along the lines of: “Our complementary medicine courses are for information and entertainment only. If you have a medical problem please see a GP or nurse at your local health centre.”

Finally, I should very much like to know how much public subsidy is being used to support these courses. Presumably the true cost per person of, for example, “Crystals & Herbs for Health” on page 41 is not £33.

I very much look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely

Lee Thacker


5 Responses to “A Letter to Oxfordshire County Council Education Services”

  1. dvnutrix Says:

    Where I live you can’t do any Adult Ed courses that don’t end in a qualification – the Council can claim money to subsidise those courses then. They don’t want to recruit people who won’t take the associated exams – which is a shame in some ways as some adults just can’t bear the idea of taking any form of exam again.

    You will gather that most Adult Ed courses in my district are vocational rather than the usual Adult Ed like C17 art appreciation, or the novels of Thomas Hardy.

    Interesting to see what sort of response you receive.

  2. LeeT Says:

    It will be interesting to see what will be the effect of government moves to take away subsidies from non-vocational course like these. Of course, it may that Oxforshire County Council delivers courses endorsed by BANT and/or the ION. Say a ten week course in the basics of orthomolecular medicine?

    If that seems far-fetched take a look at page 42 of the brochure where you see that they have recruited a BANT member to “address the concept of detoxification diets.” Judging by her website she appear to be sceptical of the need to take medication when you have an infection:

    Here is where to download the brochure if you are interested:

  3. dvnutrix Says:

    Naturopath, kinesiologist, herbalist etc. – I can see that this is what attracts people into Adult Ed. rather than learning about how to interpret a clinical review paper but even so.

    There probably is a market for a meaningless accreditation. Actually…a small plan forms.

  4. David Colquhoun Says:

    If local Councils get a letter like this every time they subsidise a course in fairy-tale medicine, the message will get through eventually. Citing the new Fair Trading regulations tends to me more effective than reason, I suspect.

  5. LeeT Says:

    It would certainly be great if local councils and colleges put on more science courses. To be fair, Oxford University’s Continuing Education department has a good selection.

    If I get a reply I’ll do another post.

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