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Society of Homoeopaths is investigated over claims that standards chief promoted anti-vaccination material

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2849 (Published 15 July 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2849
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) is to review the accreditation of the Society of Homoeopaths after the society’s professional standards chief was accused of having promoted anti-vaccination messages online.

The PSA renewed the society’s accreditation in February, imposing a condition requiring it to make clear that registered homoeopaths, whether acting in a professional or a public capacity, are not allowed “to provide advice on vaccination or offer or provide homeopathy as an alternative to vaccination for the prevention of serious infectious diseases.”

The condition averted a judicial review which the Good Thinking Society, a charity that promotes rational thinking, had won permission to bring in the High Court.

As well as overseeing professional regulators such as the General Medical Council, the PSA also assesses organisations that maintain registers of social and healthcare practitioners, such as homoeopaths, who are not regulated by law.

Accreditation is renewed once a year but the PSA confirmed on its website, “We have initiated an in-year review of the Society of Homeopaths. In accordance with our processes, we can undertake an in-year review if information is raised with us that requires further investigation. The potential outcomes for this are the same as for an annual review.”

A PSA spokesperson told The BMJ, “An in-year review allows us to investigate where we decide this is warranted, outside of the annual review process. We do not do this frequently. Possible outcomes include imposing further conditions, suspension, or no action.”

The in-year review follows allegations from the Good Thinking Society and the Sunday Telegraph that social media accounts linked to the homoeopathy practice of Sue Pilkington had posted anti-vaccination material before her appointment in June as the Society of Homoeopaths’ safeguarding and professional standards lead.

Among the content which Pilkington is accused of posting on Facebook is an article on a US website, Health Nut News, with the headline “German study confirms vaccine free children healthier than vaccinated children.”

Another post linked to the website of the American anti-vaccination organisation Learn the Risk and carries the comment, “Ouch! And we wonder why we have increasing chronic disease,” next to a graphic showing how the number of vaccinations for American children have increased over the decades.

The content includes the following: “If those vaccines were so healthy, we would have really healthy kids here in the US, yet we have the sickest children in the developed world. Half of all children now have a chronic health issues and rates of neurological issues and autoimmune issues and cancer are skyrocketing. Could it be the known neurotoxic additives in vaccines!! Or the known-to-cause-cancer chemicals in there?!!”

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens and national medical director Stephen Powis wrote to the PSA last year raising questions about the society’s accreditation amid concerns that some homoeopaths were spreading misinformation about vaccines.1

A spokesperson for the Society of Homoeopaths told The BMJ, “It would be inappropriate for us to comment while the in-year review is progressing.” Pilkington had no comment.

References

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