Landmark agreement extends ASA’s digital remit (Lightning Process pilot study in children)

Landmark agreement extends ASA’s digital remit (Lightning Process pilot study in children)


It is of considerable public concern that Dr Esther Crawley has sought to obtain the advice, guidance and involvement of a Lightning Process practitioner who, in June, was subject to an Advertising Standards Authority ruling in relation to claims made in an advertisement about the efficacy of the Lightning Process for CFS and ME [1].

In July, in this background posting, I reported that Bournemouth Lightning Process instructor, Alastair Gibson, had already identified himself, on the “Withinspiration website”, as “one of the two practitioners working with the NHS and the young people” in the Dr Crawley led pilot study into Lightning Process for children aged 8 to 18 [2].

At 29 March, Mr Gibson’s website had carried this information:

Breaking News – NHS and Lightning Process research collaboration.

“A new pilot study involving the Lightning Process and the NHS has been awarded £164,000 for research into the treatment of CFS/ME in children and adolescents. Alastair Gibson is one of the two practitioners working with the NHS and the young people in this exciting research study. Find out more.”

That statement no longer appears on his website and it is unclear whether Mr Gibson retains an involvement with this proposed pilot study.

At 27 August, according to the University of Bristol’s FOI officer, the study had yet to obtain ethics approval. A research protocol and other information was supposed to have been published on the University of Bristol’s website by the end of August – regardless of whether the study gained approval [3].

This material has failed to appear.

The Old Bailey Online site is a fully searchable collection of 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court:

In the 1700s, Old Bailey court reports included advertisements and this one caught my eye:

Old Bailey Proceedings, 27th February 1712

“All Melancholy, Hysterical and Hypochondriacal Distempers, which variously affect the Mind with strange Fears, and dismal Apprehensions, Paintings, and Sinkings of the Spirits, great Hurries, Restlesness and Disquietment (little understood, and seldom cured by any common Means) also Pains and Giddiness of the Head, Risings to the Throat, Sick-fits, Tremblings, Oppressions of the Heart, or any other Disorders caus’d by Vapours, are successfully cured (with God’s Blessing) by a Physician well experienc’d therein, and of more than 20 Years Practice in those deplorable Cases; who also cures all kind of Fits, tho’ strange and violent, if curable; which he informs on sight of their Water. Living next door to Shadwell Coffee-House in Upper-Shadwell, near London; where those that have occasion, and live remote, may direct their Letters, and they shall be speedily answer’d, or attended on, if desired.”

Well little changes, because in 2010, the sites of some Lightning Process practitioners are still making the following claims:

What does it work for?

“People using the Lightning Process® have also recovered from, or experienced significant improvement with the following conditions: –

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Post Viral Fatigue
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Bipolar Disorder
Anxiety And Panic Attacks
Cerebral Palsy
Low Self Esteem
Parkinsons Tremors
Motor Neurone Disease
Hyper And Hypo Thyroidism
Chronic Aches And Pains
Lyme Disease
Anger Issues
Food Intolerances
Coeliac Disease
Type 2 Diabetes
Interstitial Cystitis
Noise And Light Sensitivity
And Many More”

“Using the Lightning Process® has proven effective for clearing ALL the debilitating physical and mind based symptoms of ME, chronic fatigue syndrome, and post viral syndrome.

“Some of the symptoms that people have cleared are listed here…

“Addictions, adrenal problems, allergies and intolerances, anxiety, balance problems, bloating, blurry vision, brain fog, candida, chemical sensitivity, compulsive behaviours, concentration problems, confusion, constipation, depression, diarrhoea, dizziness, electrical pulsing sensations, excessive sleeping, exhaustion, fatigue, fear, feeling detached or disconnected, fever and chills, flu-like symptoms, frequent coughs and colds, fybromyalgia, hallucinations, head pain or pressure, heartburn, indigestion, insomnia and other sleep disturbances, irritability, irritable bowel syndrome, itching and rashes, itchy eyes, joint pain, light sensitivity, loss of vision, malaise, memory loss, migraines, muscle pain, nausea, noise sensitivity, oedema, panic attacks, painful and/or swollen glands, pins and needles, restless leg syndrome, runny nose, sensitivity to electrical fields/computers/mobiles etc, shaking, shooting pains, skin sensitivity, stomach pain, sun burn sensation, swelling, temperature control problems, thrush, thyroid problems, unrefreshing sleep, vertigo and similar sensations, vomiting, water retention, watering eyes, weakness…..and probably many more

“We advise you to consult your GP, have the necessary tests and obtain a diagnosis before applying for the Lightning Process® training programme”

The Phil Parker Lightning Process website and the sites of some Lightning Process practitioners have a “FAQ” page which includes the following:

Can my doctor assess me for readiness?

“If your doctor or health care specialist is trained as a Lightning Process Practitioner then of course they can assess you for readiness to take the programme. If they are not trained in the programme they will not have the requisite skills or knowledge base about this very specialised field to assess you.

“A large part of the training for LP practitioners is to train them to appropriately assess potential trainees for their suitability for the process, as it is essential to ensure, as far as is possible, that only those who are ready to get benefits from the training program are enrolled in the training.”

So, according to Mr Parker, your doctor is not capable of assessing patients for “readiness” to undertake the Lightning Process.

How and by whom are the potential child participants in the RNHRD NHS FT Bath/University of Bristol pilot study going to be assessed for “readiness” and suitability to undertake the “training”?

We don’t know, because the University of Bristol is withholding virtually all information requested by me under Clause 22(1)(a) of the FOI Act.

The Lightning Process is controversial and untrialled. It is marketed by the Phil Parker organisation not as a therapy or a treatment but as a “training program” delivered by “instructors” or “practitioners” or “coaches”.

Instructors are trained and licensed by the Phil Parker organisation and are not accountable to any regulatory professional body. If individuals have complaints about a practitioner or about the Lightning Process, itself, which cannot be resolved directly with the practitioner or through the Phil Parker complaints procedure, their only recourse is Trading Standards.

Currently, the Advertising Standards Authority’s remit does not extend to website content. But this is to change in March 2011.

The Advertising Standards Authority has issued this news release today:

Landmark agreement extends ASA’s digital remit

1 September 2010

The digital remit of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is to be extended significantly to deliver more comprehensive consumer protection online.

The ASA’s present remit online includes ads in paid-for space and sales promotions wherever they appear. But from next year, the rules in the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code) will apply in full to marketing communications online, including the rules relating to misleading advertising, social responsibility and the protection of children. The remit will apply to all sectors and all businesses and organisations regardless of size.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for writing the CAP Code, has decided to extend the digital remit of the ASA in response to a formal recommendation from a wide cross-section of UK industry. CAP has today published a document detailing the new remit and sanctions.

( Open PDF here: CAP Digital Remit Extension[1] )

In summary:

The new remit will ensure the same high standards as in other media and will cover:

Advertisers’ own marketing communications on their own websites and;

Marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Journalistic and editorial content and material related to causes and ideas – except those that are direct solicitations of donations for fund-raising – are excluded from the remit.

In addition to the ASA’s present sanctions, which already achieve a high level of compliance, CAP member bodies have agreed new sanctions to apply to the extended remit such as:

Removal of paid-for search advertising – ads that link to the page hosting the non-compliant marketing communication may be removed with the agreement of the search engines.

• ASA paid-for search advertisements – the ASA could place advertisements online highlighting an advertiser’s continued non-compliance.

The industry has agreed to apply the standard 0.1% levy on paid-for advertisements appearing on internet search engines through media and search agencies. This is an extension of the existing funding mechanism in other media that pays for the ASA and it will be supplemented initially with seed capital from Google.

The remit will come into force on 1 March 2011 after a six month period of grace to allow the ASA and CAP to conduct training work to raise awareness and educate business on the requirements of the CAP Code, particularly amongst those who may not previously have been subject to ASA regulation. Website owners and agencies are urged to sign up to CAP Services to receive guidance and training to help ensure their sites comply with the new rules
before 1 March 2011.

ASA Chairman Lord Chris Smith said, “This significant extension of the ASA’s remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart. We have received over 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn’t deal with, but from 1 March anyone who has a concern about a marketing communication online will be able to turn to the ASA.”

CAP Chairman Andrew Brown said, “Extending the online remit of the ASA has been a top priority for UK industry  over the last couple of years. Our aim has been to extend further in the online world the principles that are already well established in our system, namely those of effective consumer protection and fair competition.”


[1] ASA adjudication against “Withinspiration”, June 2010:

[2] Background to this issue:
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Adjudication: Withinspiration (Lightning Process)

[3] Update on ethics approval for the Dr Esther Crawley led RNHRD NHS FT Bath/University of Bristol Lightning Process pilot study for children aged 8 to 18: