A while back, I asked BANT – which promotes itself as “The Professional Body for Nutritional Therapists”, and has made Holford a Fellow – to see a copy of their ethics code. They refused, citing concerns that people might misquote or steal their ethics code. I was therefore delighted to see that BANT’s ethics code is now available on their website [PDF]. However, I was disappointed to note some of the content of the code: BANT allow members to earn profit and commission from selling products to their clients. This is not appropriate behaviour from want-to-be healthcare professionals.
To quote from the BANT ethics code (p. 9):
7.3 Trade discounts and commission payments.
The main income, generated as members of BANT, should come from consultative, advisory, educational and promotional aspects of Nutritional Therapy. (G).
a) In addition to supplying supplements as an integral part of a consultation, the Member may also act as a supplier of laboratory tests, or any other products related to Nutritional Therapy. The member may choose to benefit from trade discounts and commission payments when offered by the supplier on products purchased by him for such use. The member decides whether such payments, in whole or in part, are retained in his Nutritional Therapy business, or passed onto the client. (B).
b) The Member may accept commission directly from the supplier. This can also apply when repeat orders for products prescribed by the Member, are placed directly by a client with the supplier, with the prior agreement of the Member. However, to protect both the Member and the client, both parties must be in a formal client relationship and implementing the prescribed programme of treatment, timings, review meetings and record taking as arranged initially between the parties. (B).
In other words – a BANT-registered nutritional therapist can also sell (either as a retailer, or for commission) all kinds of nutritional pills and tests. This gives them a financial incentive to ‘prescribe’ unnecessary products for their clients.
This type of behaviour – want-to-be healthcare professionals profiting from selling pills and tests to their patients – makes big pharma look positively cuddly. But, according to BANT’s ethics code, it’s perfectly OK for nutritional therapists to earn money this way.
Personally, I think that it is BANT’s ethics that need supplementing.