The website www.homeopathyislington.co.uk, for Islington Homeopathy Clinic, stated that homeopathy "is sanctioned by the UK government and has been an integral part of the National Health Service (NHS) since it was founded in 1948".
A complainant challenged whether the claim that homeopathy "is sanctioned by the UK government and has been an integral part of the National Health Service (NHS) since it was founded in 1948" was misleading and could be substantiated, because he believed it suggested homeopathy was an effective treatment.
Islington Homeopathy Clinic said a promise was made by Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS, when it was founded in 1948, that "... under the National Health Service Act homeopathic institutions will be enabled to provide their own form of treatment and the continuity of the characteristics of those institutions will be maintained ...". They said every government since then had continued to fund homeopathic treatment through the NHS. They cited several examples of reports or statements by the UK government or by individual members of the government which were supportive of homeopathy, all of which they believed supported the claim that homeopathy was "sanctioned" by the UK government.
The ASA considered that the wording of the claim suggested acceptance of homeopathy as an effective treatment by the UK government and the NHS and considered that Islington Homeopathy Clinic needed to hold evidence for that. We noted that information published by NHS Choices stated that homeopathic treatment was available through the NHS in certain circumstances. It said the Department of Health did not maintain a position on homeopathy, but that it was the responsibility of local NHS organisations to decide whether to fund homeopathic treatment for their patients. The information explained the principles behind homeopathy, but stated in several places that there was no good quality evidence that homeopathy was an effective treatment for any health conditions. While we did not dispute that homeopathic treatment was available through the NHS in certain circumstances, we considered that Islington Homeopathy Clinic had not demonstrated that homeopathy was accepted as an effective treatment by the UK government and the NHS. Because of that, we concluded that the claim was misleading.
The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) 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. (Endorsements and testimonials).
The claim must not appear again in its current form.