Good Thinking’s Judicial Review concluded with strict conditions placed on the Society of Homeopaths

As many of our supporters will know, the Professional Standards Authority has imposed strict conditions on the Society of Homeopaths as part of their most recent annual accreditation of the homeopathic membership organisation as an Accredited Voluntary Register.

Those conditions include forbidding registrants of the Society of Homeopaths from practising CEASE therapy – an ineffective autism ‘cure’ aimed at children which is based on anti-vaccination misinformation – and from making any claims regarding vaccination.

We at the Good Thinking Society welcome these conditions, having spent the last few years raising concerns over the Society of Homeopaths’ unwillingness or inability to prevent their registrants from claiming to cure autism. In June 2019, we filed a Judicial Review challenging the PSA’s 2019 reaccreditation of the Society of Homeopaths, given that the PSA had acknowledged that CEASE therapy was potentially harmful and that it conflicted with NHS advice regarding vaccinations against potentially life-threatening conditions. In that 2019 reaccreditation, the PSA did not require, or even recommend, that the Society of Homeopaths prevent their members from offering CEASE therapy.

We challenged the decision because the measures recommended by the PSA in 2019 did not come close to mitigating the potential harms associated with CEASE therapy, despite there being evidence that Society of Homeopaths registrants continued to practice CEASE therapy. We also argued that the PSA had failed to ask the Society of Homeopaths how many of its registrants practised CEASE therapy, and failed to verify information provided to them (some of which we had found to be inaccurate), before coming to their decision. Further, we felt that the PSA had not properly taken account of the potential equality implications of its decision, given that CEASE therapy is aimed at autistic people, and autistic children in particular. 

With that in mind, we were very pleased to see that strict conditions have now been placed upon the Society of Homeopaths, binding them to take action to prevent their registrants from making autism-‘cure’ claims or from spreading anti-vaccination misinformation. We are encouraged to see that the PSA have come to accept that nothing short of an outright ban on CEASE therapy is sufficient to protect the public, and that they also took into account the equality implications of accrediting the Society of Homeopaths whilst its members practice CEASE therapy.

We are therefore happy to withdraw our legal challenge to the 2019 decision.

However, while putting in place a ban on CEASE therapy is obviously a great step forward, any prohibition is meaningless unless it is adhered to, and disciplinary action is taken by the Society of Homeopaths against those registrants who ignore it. We will therefore be paying close attention over the coming year, to ensure that registrants of the Society of Homeopaths do not continue to offer CEASE therapy or act in breach of any of the other conditions imposed upon the Society by the PSA. If we do find registrants acting in breach, we will raise our concerns with the Society of Homeopaths, and the PSA as necessary – as we did prior to the 2019 reaccreditation. We trust that, this time, our concerns will be taken seriously, and that the need for further legal action can be avoided in the future.

We’d like to offer our thanks to everyone who supported us on this project, which started over three years ago, and to Professor Steve Powis of NHS England and Carol Povey of the National Autistic Society, for the statements they submitted in support of our claim. We would also like to give special thanks to Salima Budhani at Bindmans LLP, and Jason Pobjoy and Hollie Higgins at Blackstone Chambers for their invaluable legal counsel.

We’d like to thank CrowdJustice for coordinating our fundraising activities, and to the 289 people who donated money to back our cause. We will be writing to them next week to explain the impact that their donation has made.

Meanwhile, we invite our supporters to let us know if they find any instances of Society of Homeopaths registrants offering CEASE therapy, offering dietary supplements, sharing anti-vaccine misinformation or claiming to be able to cure any named conditions, which we will then be able to pass on.  The Society of Homeopaths has three months to get its house in order, to satisfy the PSA that it has complied with the conditions relating to CEASE therapy and vaccination.  The PSA will then make an assessment as to whether the conditions have been met, and only if they have been met will the reaccreditation be granted.  Evidence of dangerous misinformation or inappropriate claims made by Society of Homeopaths registrants after 13 May 2020 will show that the conditions have not been met which ought to trigger appropriate action by the PSA.

Notes for editors:

The latest accreditation of the Society of Homeopaths includes the following conditions:

The Society of Homeopaths must:

    1. make its position statements clear that registrants must not practise or advertise adjunctive therapies that are incompatible with Society registration. Specific reference must be made to the Society’s position forbidding the practice of CEASE, and dietary/nutritional supplements. This must be submitted to the Authority for review and published within three months
    2. make its position statements clear that registrants’ scope of practice does not allow registrants, whether acting in a professional or public capacity, to provide advice on vaccination or offer or provide homeopathy as an alternative to vaccination for the prevention of serious infectious diseases. Registrants should direct service users to NHS and other public health sources, for example, their GP or public health departments. Revised statements must be submitted to the Authority for review and published within three months
    3. provide quarterly reports of its monitoring to ensure that within the following 12 months all registrant websites comply with its updated position statements (as referred to in part a above)
    4. complete and make available to the public its guidance on adjunctive/supplementary therapies and inform the Authority how it will promote compliance with that guidance.