A website, www.softskillscourses.com, for an online course provider, seen on 21 April 2016, promoted a "certified dietitian practitioner" course.
The British Dietetic Association, who believed that those who completed the course would not be able to use the legally protected term "dietitian", because they understood the use of such term required degree level education in dietetics and registration with the Health and Care Professions Council, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
A.R Recruitment Consultancy Ltd t/a Soft Skills Courses did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Soft Skills Courses’ lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of the CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We noted that the name of the online course was titled “certified dietitian practitioner” and the page containing details about the course included text that stated “Dietitians’ practice could be clinical, … neonatal, … pediatric [sic], …”. We considered that the use of the word “certified” was likely to be understood to mean that the course in question was accredited or approved by the relevant professional body or regulator, and would be recognised within the profession as a means to demonstrate that an individual had reached a prescribed level of training. We also considered that, in light of the references to “practitioner” and clinical, neonatal and paediatric practice, consumers were likely to expect that they would be able to practise as a dietitian involved in clinical work and advising on patients' nutritional diets to treat medical conditions as a result of the course.
We understood that dietitians were regulated by the statutory regulator, Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the minimum qualification requirements was a BSc Hons in Dietetics, or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or higher degree in Dietetics from education and training providers approved by the HCPC. We also understood that only those who were qualified and registered with the HCPC could use the title “dietitian”.
However, we understood that Soft Skills Courses was not an approved provider of qualifications in dietetics and therefore those who completed their course would not be qualified as a, or be entitled to use the title, “dietitian”. Because we considered that consumers were likely to expect from the ad that they would be able to practise as a dietitian and use the title on completion of the course, and we understood that that was not the case, we concluded the ad was likely to be misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.50 3.50 Marketing communications must not display a trust mark, quality mark or equivalent without the necessary authorisation. Marketing communications must not claim that the marketer (or any other entity referred to), the marketing communication or the advertised product has been approved, endorsed or authorised by any public or other body if it has not or without complying with the terms of the approval, endorsement or authorisation. (Testimonials and endorsements).
The ad must not appear in its current form again. We told Soft Skills Courses not to state or imply in their advertising that students who undertook their course would be able to practise as a dietitian, if that was not the case.