In early October, Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust posted a job advertisement for a part-time reiki and spiritual healer. The post would have involved working within the Breast Cancer Unit at St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping, and the salary for the position was to be funded via charity rather than by NHS resources. The advertisement quickly received widespread criticism, with the reaction on social media eventually drawing the attention of the Daily Mail, the Independent and other mainstream media outlets.
Soon after the posting appeared in the press, Good Thinking wrote to The Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Charity to express our concern over the use of funds on unproven treatments and how this would not be in the best interests of patients. Moreover, we were concerned that the post would be an implicit NHS endorsement of reiki. Our aim was to highlight that there were better and safer ways for Princess Alexandra Hospital to spend their limited resources in order to support their patients.
In late November, The Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Charity wrote to us explaining that the post is no longer going ahead.
We were not alone in raising concerns about the post, with numerous other skeptics and evidence-based-medicine advocates blogging, tweeting and emailing to highlight (politely and firmly) their own concerns. Equally, the effect of the mainstream media coverage would undoubtedly have been a significant contributing factor in the eventual decision by the hospital.
All in all, this serves as an excellent example of the positive effect that active skeptics can have: by expressing concerns to the hospital over their planned spending of limited resources on reiki and spiritual healing, we and the other skeptics who took the time to get in touch were able to help the hospital avoid lending their support and reputation to disproven treatments.
When we talk to would-be skeptical activists, one of the messages we are always keen to stress is that even small actions can be effective in challenging the acceptance of pseudoscience and irrationality. This decision by Princess Alexandra Hospital once again shows that even something as simple as sending a short email can actually help towards making a real difference.