The information you provide to patients on your website, in practice literature, and via social media, service directories and marketing material must comply with the Osteopathic Practice Standards.
In April 2021, we issued a joint message with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) to all osteopaths, to reaffirm the standards expected when advertising osteopathy to ensure the protection of patients and the public. Read our joint message
The Advertising Standards Authority
In the UK, all advertising is governed by the ASA. Osteopaths must comply with the ASA’s requirements, as set out in the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code).
What the Osteopathic Practice Standards say
The guidance to Standard D1 of the Osteopathic Practice Standards says:
'Your advertising and promotional material, including website content, is legal, decent, honest and truthful as defined by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and conforms to current guidance, such as the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (the CAP code)'.
Guidance on the Committee for Advertising Practice website
CAP produces the advertising code that all UK advertisers must adhere to. The ASA ensures that advertisers comply with the CAP Code.
- You should read the CAP guidance on Health, Beauty, Slimming and Medical Conditions, which sets out requirements for healthcare advertising.
- There is information specifically about osteopathy on the CAP website, including a list of health conditions that osteopaths can claim to help, and new guidance about claims in relation to the treatment of babies, children and pregnant women.
- In September 2015, the CAP produced a summary of advertising guidance specifically relevant to osteopaths. This guidance brings together a range of information about advertising available on the CAP website, and includes specific requirements in relation to the use of testimonials.
- The full requirements relating to your advertising and marketing are set out in the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code).
As an osteopath and a regulated health professional, it is your responsibility to ensure your marketing information, including website content, entries in service directories, posters, practice leaflets and social media promotions, all conform with the ASA’s standards.
What can I say on my website?
If you are developing a practice website you need to be aware of the guidance in paragraph 2, standard D1 of the Osteopathic Practice Standards, which is about advertising and publicity. This advises that information on your website needs to meet the requirements of the ASA, including the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP code).
In particular, the ASA sets out the conditions which it believes osteopaths may say they can help and not adhering to this guidance may give rise to complaints about your website or other patient information being made to the ASA by members of the public.
Standard D1, guidance paragraph 2 also says: 'The information you provide about your professional qualifications, practice arrangements and the services you provide is of a high standard and factually accurate'.
Osteopaths should ensure they have a good understanding of the evidence that underpins the advice they give patients. The National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR) website is a rich resource of information regarding evidence relating to osteopathic practice and includes evidence summaries. Osteopaths also have free access to a range of research journals in the IJOM Plus package.
ASA guidance on advertising claims about treating babies, children and pregnant women
The ASA has been working closely with the osteopathic profession to produce new guidance about advertising claims that relate to the treatment of babies, children and pregnant women. The guidance – Osteopathy: ASA Review and Guidance for Marketing Claims for Pregnant Women, Children and Babies – has been sent by the GOsC to all osteopaths on the UK Register.
Registrants have been strongly advised to review the information provided on practice websites and other publicity material to ensure their advertising complies with the ASA standards.