Good Thinking welcomes new Standards from the Professional Standards Authority, and the withdrawal of the Society of Homeopaths

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has announced new Standards for voluntary registers of healthcare providers, causing the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) to withdraw from the accreditation scheme.

The PSA – the government body which oversees and accredits healthcare bodies – has included in their new Standards a ‘public interest’ test, which will weigh up whether the evidence for the benefits of a treatment covered by a register outweigh any risks. The new Standards come after a public consultation on the scope of the Accredited Registers programme, to which Good Thinking made a submission arguing that practitioners who offer therapies whose health benefits are not demonstrated by reliable, high-quality evidence should not be accredited.

The consultation came only a year after Good Thinking brought a Judicial Review to challenge the PSA’s 2019 accreditation of the Society of Homeopaths – a legal challenge which was withdrawn after the PSA imposed strict conditions on the Society in February 2020.

Michael Marshall, Project Director of Good Thinking, said: “When we first brought our legal challenge in 2019, we argued that the PSA’s logo is used by therapists as a sign that they are competent, trustworthy and safe, but that the logo and the accreditation scheme only carries any meaning if the PSA takes seriously their duty to protect the public from harmful practices.

“We are therefore very pleased to see the PSA’s new Standards include a public benefit test, and we hope this allows responsible practitioners of evidence-based therapies to continue with confidence, while preventing practitioners of unproven or disproven therapies from receiving the tacit endorsement of the government’s healthcare regulator”.

The Society of Homeopaths – whose accreditation was at the heart of Good Thinking’s 2019 Judicial Review – have used the introduction of the new Standards to announce they will be withdrawing from the Accredited Register scheme, and their registrants will no longer be able to benefit from being accredited by the PSA.

Michael Marshall said of the decision: “The Society of Homeopaths cited a change in fee structure as the reason for their withdrawal, but in my opinion it would have been very difficult for the Society and their registrants to meet the new Standards – or, indeed, even the old Standards.

“The misleading claims made by SoH registrants over vaccines and autism had already led to strict conditions being imposed on the Society in January 2020, with further conditions imposed in August after the Society’s own Safeguarding lead had been found spreading anti-vaccine misinformation. The Society had its accreditation suspended at the start of this year after they failed to meet these new conditions, so it isn’t surprising to see them leave the programme.

“In our opinion, the accreditation of the Society of Homeopaths had always been inappropriate, given that homeopathy has been comprehensively shown to be ineffective, and given that many of the Society’s registrants routinely made misleading claims regarding the safety of vaccines, the ability of homeopathy to ‘treat’ autism, and much more. Since 2014, those claims often featured alongside a PSA logo, giving the impression to the public that they came from a practitioner of a credible healthcare modality.

“Thanks to the decision of the Society of Homeopaths to withdraw from the programme, that will no longer be the case.”

Simon Singh, chair of Good Thinking, said: “When we brought our legal case in 2019, we argued that it was inappropriate for the Society of Homeopaths to have accreditation by the PSA, and that the accreditation of treatments which can’t be shown to offer a benefit undermines trust in the accreditation scheme. As of last week, the Society of Homeopaths is no longer accredited, and thanks to the new Standards set by the PSA, practitioners need to demonstrate that they offer a public benefit that outweighs their risk of harm, before they can benefit from the conferred legitimacy and credibility that accreditation offers.

“We’d like to offer our thanks to everyone who supported us on this project over the years, and to Salima Budhani at Bindmans LLP, and Jason Pobjoy and Hollie Higgins at Blackstone Chambers for their invaluable legal counsel. We’d also like to offer thanks to the writers, blogger and skeptics who wrote to the PSA to express their concern over the accreditation of organisations like the Society of Homeopaths.”

Timeline of events:

  • April 1st, 2019 – PSA grant reaccreditation to the SoH, despite some SoH registrants discouraging vaccination and claiming to cure autism
  • June 29th, 2019 – Good Thinking files Judicial Review challenging the PSA’s decision to reaccredit the SoH
  • October 4th, 2019 – Judicial Review over PSA reaccreditation of Society of Homeopaths granted permission by High Court
  • February 13th, 2020 – PSA opts to reaccredit the SoH for 2020, but places strict conditions on the Society
  • March 15th, 2020 – Good Thinking withdraws Judicial Review after deciding to give the PSA time for the stringent conditions imposed to take effect
  • June 8th, 2020 – the PSA announces a strategic review into their Accredited Registers programme; Good Thinking enters a submission outlining issues with current Standards
  • August 20th, 2020 – the PSA publishes outcome of investigation into anti-vax statements made by the Safeguarding lead of the SoH, imposing further conditions
  • January 11th, 2021 – the PSA suspends the SoH for their failure to meet the conditions imposed in the 2020 review; SoH is given a deadline to meet conditions of be withdrawn
  • July 29th, 2021 – the PSA publishes new Standards including a ‘public interest’ test; SoH withdraws from the programme and can no longer claim accreditation