Professional Standards Authority suspends the Society of Homeopaths

Earlier today, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) announced it had suspended the accreditation of the Society of Homeopaths (SoH). The PSA, the government watchdog who regulate healthcare regulators and registers, found that the SoH “did not appear to have prioritised public protection over professional interests in its handling of complaints or governance processes, which undermined confidence in its ability to ensure its registrants were compliant with its own Code of Ethics and position statements.”

According to the PSA, the SoH’s failings in this regard “led to risks to the public from homeopathy being offered as an alternative for serious conditions such as depression, arthritis and autoimmune conditions that require medical supervision.”

Since 2019, Good Thinking has made the case that PSA accreditation of the SoH is inappropriate, and that it undermined the credibility of the government authority to offer a kitemark to practitioners of an ineffective form of alternative medicine. In 2019 we brought a legal challenge to the Society’s accreditation after SoH members promoted anti-vaccine misinformation and claimed to cure autism via CEASE therapy. Our legal case was withdrawn after the PSA imposed strict conditions upon the SoH in early 2020.

However, in April 2020, in the early weeks of the pandemic, we highlighted in an exposé in The Times how registrants of the Society of Homeopaths were selling homeopathic remedies aimed at treating Covid-19. A few months later, in July, we revealed that the SoH had appointed as ‘Professional Standards and Safeguarding Lead’ Sue Pilkington, a homeopath who had repeatedly shared anti-vaccine misinformation. This appointment was made despite the conditions imposed upon the SoH for their failure to tackle anti-vaccine propaganda among their membership.

Appointing an anti-vaxxer to a position of overseeing professional standards prompted an emergency review by the PSA, leading to Ms Pilkington’s immediate dismissal. The review resulted in conditions being placed upon the SoH’s accreditation, including that they adequately vet appointees and prioritise public safety – their failure to meet that condition has led to their suspension.

Michael Marshall, Project Director of Good Thinking, said: “We are pleased to see that the PSA have suspended the Society of Homeopaths. The Society has shown consistently over a number of years that they are either unwilling or unable to prevent their members from making dangerously misleading claims regarding autism and vaccination – even going so far as to appoint an anti-vaxxer to a position of authority. This shows a serious failure to prioritise the safety of the public, as the PSA rightly concluded in their adjudication.

“We hope this case goes on to set a precedent and that the PSA scrutinises other accredited registers whose members promote therapies that are not supported by evidence. As we have argued for many years, the public understandably interpret PSA accreditation as a sign of credibility – where that credibility is being leant to practices that do not work and in some cases are actively harmful, it erodes public confidence in the PSA as a whole, and potentially puts the health and wellbeing of vulnerable members of the public at risk.”