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Practising Medicine without a licence?

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by PodAus, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. PodAus

    PodAus Active Member

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    Several patients have reported they have been given 'medical advice' by the retail store assistants when visiting the Footsolutions stores in Melbourne.

    When asked about their medical conditions, the 'customer' has been advised not to continue with their prescribed medical treatment, and instead have been given 'alternate' advice relating to their medical condition. As blatant as "No, don't do that, buy this from us and treat it that way."

    This confusing medical advice given to patients is, apart from being mis-guided, uninformed and frankly wrong, it is illegal.

    A complaint has been made to the ACCC.

    Does anyone else have experience with this unauthorised practise by retailers?

    Paul D
  2. LuckyLisfranc

    LuckyLisfranc Well-Known Member


    ...this is the issue. Is it illegal to provide advice about a health condition?

    In most states/territories there are provisions in legislation for "holding out" to be a registered health practitioner, of whatever denomination. I am sure you provide advice on medical problems every day in your practice - but you are not holding yourself out to be a medical practitioner! A pharmacy assistant is not a registered health professional, but they can advise on the best cold n' flu medication for you. If it is contrary to the advice of a GP, and no courtesy call is made, then it could be harmful to business and a risk exists regarding liability in an adverse event.

    However, if the salesperson in question does not purport to be a podiatrist, physio or medical practitioner - then the question arises as to whether the advice is illegal. I doubt it. I suspect in law, anyone can 'suggest' anything to anyone.

    However, if there is an adverse outcome as a result of that advice, the potential for civil liability then becomes the route of recourse for the client/patient.

    More importantly, they will no doubt damage their reputation with the local podiatric community.

    The ACCC has no jurisdiction on these issues, they simple investigate instances of anitcompetitive behaviour. It is really a health practitioner Board matter.

  3. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

  4. PodAus

    PodAus Active Member

    'Holding out', proporting to be a qualified practitioner is one thing, infringing upon criminal law, however when conveying to be a specialist in footwear and orthotics for medically-related problems certainly verges upon infringment of civil liberty. Particularly when this advice is being given in exchange for money - and the sale of related products / orthotics due to these medical claims may result in pain, suffering and physical damage.

    Unless a disclaimer is given at the time, clearly stating advice being given 'is not of a medical basis and the person should consult a health professional for any medical concern they may have', then yes, Civil Law dictates it Advice of a medical nature which is not of the standard emparted by a registered professional is potentially neglegent in Duty of Care - any resulting pain, discomfort, stress or physical damage may then result in the retailer and the shop assistant being sued under civil law... and this does happen.

    Awareness of 'orthotics' and their effectiveness within the community, is important to the Podiatric Profession here in Australia.

    The inappropriate and inexperienced use of orthotic therapy by the uninformed has a negative impact on anyone reading this thread.
  5. LuckyLisfranc

    LuckyLisfranc Well-Known Member


    I understand your frustration, and I have shared similar experiences over the years with over-zealous shoe stores and similar retail operations.

    However, I still think there is a lvery ow liklihood of this being a criminal matter.

    Anyone without formal qualifications can set up shop and claim to be an expert in biomechanics, shoes and orthoses. I am aware of no law that prevents this.

    Unfortunately, with the many changes to Podiatrists Acts across Australia over the last decade, we as a profession have only got a "title" to hang on to. There are very few defined scopes of practice that are now restricted to certain professions. Orthotics are not on of these as far as I am aware.

    Your best recourse would be to write to the Podiatrists Registration Board to see if there has been any breach of local laws, but (frustratingly for you) I doubt that there is...

  6. PodAus

    PodAus Active Member

    I definitely agree it is not a criminal matter, however a very obvious Civil Law matter. As long as patient are aware of their rights in relation to uninformed medical advice...

    Awareness is the key - education of the public by practitioners and the Podiatry Council / Association would be of benefit... :pigs:

    Cheers, :morning:

    Paul D
  7. Jeremy Long

    Jeremy Long Active Member

    This is a matter that directly reflects and affects those in my position. Our certifiying bodies and their inclusive ethical standards are very clear in their statements that C Peds are not to diagnose and are only to treat with custom devices only under a valid prescription.

    The problem comes two-fold. One is that the majority of staffers in these retail comfort/pedorthic shops are not certified professionals. Although these individuals get greater on the job experience and education when compared to the average shoe retailer, they are still not properly educated or certified. In other words, they are very eager, but potentially injurious. The other problem is that the majority of shops in this type of retail concept are encouraged by their franchisers to sell as many "custom" inserts as possible. These provide a far greater margin to both the dealer and franchiser than footwear, and are sometimes presented as panaceas.

    It is my hope that the fairly recent inclusion of reputable certifying bodies such as ABC will help stem questionable activities among the growing tide of "mall medicine".
  8. brevis

    brevis Active Member

    walk into any athletes foot etc and you will see it happening all day long...
  9. We had footsolutions come into our 4th year graduate jobs expo. They seemed to be a retail orientated store. i think they even sponsor a few scholarships at Latrobe uni. they stated they had a few podiatry students working there, so im not sure if it was the students offering out there advice or who else it may have been. The man who came in and discussed positions for students to work there is a C.Ped. Other than that it seems like they really want to increase the amount of stores in which they have. Just thought i would add that to the discussion.
  10. Euan McGivern

    Euan McGivern Active Member

    As a podiatry student who had worked in a specialist sports store for a number of years before studying podiatry I have some appreciation of both sides of this issue. I am lucky in that our store has close links with an excellent podiatrist to whom we often send customers who need detailed advice / assessment / treatment.

    I have seen and heard of plenty of over zealous well meaning people in other stores go beyond the mark in terms of advice but the most concerning for me is the negative image of podiatrists in biomechanics portrayed by some of the technical training we received from 3rd parties, who had a product to sell :bang:

    Developing good 2 way relationships between stores and professionals has, in my experience, led to better outcomes for customers, and more customers for the store sent in by podiatrists who realize we speak the same language. It's a shame more stores don't seem to share this philosophy.

    Just my 2 cents
  11. PodAus

    PodAus Active Member

    Thats obvious by the products these stores have... particularly the "custom made arch supports that fix everything... just stand on here...".

    Patients are learning not to trust 'mall medicine' and are becoming aware of the legal recourse... even if most of what I'm hearing is "at least I got my money back..."

    There seems to be a big difference between the local shoes stores and the import brand, as to the aggressiveness of there 'selling'.

    I still support the local TAF... they understand their role..

    Lets come back to the facts about footwear and look at the price vs performance for exercise shoes... just how much better off are patients with these new technological features???
  12. hoipolloy

    hoipolloy Welcome New Poster

    I am ashamed but proud at the same time to say that I too used to work for one of these stores. Mostly proud that I left. Everything you hear is true. I could no longer in good conscience peddle their wears any longer. They operate a policy which depends on confusing and bullying the 'customer' into parting with cash. I worked there as a student and would often tell customers, quietly, to go see their NHS podiatrist. I was put under increasing pressure to look for problems that didn't exist and convince people they had an 'alignment' problem or high arches just to get them to buy insoles which were nothing more than blank foot beds. Again and again I would hear the owner say that they didn't give medical advice only to hear him explain 5 minutes later, in great medical detail what the customer should do next. They're treading a fine line in these stores, and in the process are ruining the reputation of hard working, properly qualified podiatrists everywhere. The store I worked for had then over 250 stores world wide. I was drawn to it initally because I believed that what they had was a good thing. Offering deeper, wider, accessible shoes for those with deformities or other medical conditions such as diabetes. I had to leave in the end after not having sold a single thing for months. The store is still thriving though, but i cringe at the the thought of the damage they are doing to podiatrists locally.
  13. LeonW

    LeonW Active Member

    I heard foot solutions gives a free pair of shoes with every set of orthotics ordered . Would it be legal to advertise that in public?

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