Alternative medicine council ousts critic

'Ofquack' dismisses professor who claims 'reflexology is bollocks'. Paul Jump reports

An academic has been sacked from a committee of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council - dubbed "Ofquack" by opponents - after practitioners drew attention to his outspoken criticism of alternative medicine.

David Colquhoun, honorary Fellow and former chair of pharmacology at University College London, applied to join the "conduct and competence committee" of the CNHC when it was established in 2008 as a self-regulatory body for practitioners of alternative medicine.

"I presumed they wouldn't take me, and then I could write about it. But after a phone interview with executive chair Maggy Wallace, I was amazed to be offered the job," he explained in his blog last week.

He said the committee, which is charged with investigating complaints about alternative therapists, had not yet had any cases referred to it.

But the CNHC had moved to oust him after being made aware of an email circulating among alternative therapists highlighting some of his hostile remarks about alternative medicine - including the claim that "reflexology is bollocks".

The memo says that allowing him on to the committee is "like asking a racist to be objective about the circumstances of racist crime", and calls for a boycott by the CNHC.

Professor Colquhoun did not deny making the comments, but said his views did not render him incapable of dispassionately judging a misconduct case.

But he added that the CNHC's "dire" financial problems, resulting from its failure to meet targets for registering practitioners, had made his ousting "inevitable".

A statement he agreed with the committee says that "the make-up of CNHC needs to be focused and targeted to achieve the best outcomes for the organisation".

Ms Wallace admitted that some potential registrants were "finding it difficult to understand how (Professor Colquhoun) could contribute positively to the council", but she added: "There is another view that you shouldn't always ask your friends for comments if you really want to know how you are doing."

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