We know it is going to be a fun year for watching Homeopaths. The fight is well and truly on for who gets to pretend to regulate the profession. The beleaguered Society of Homeopaths have today gone on the offensive for total and unyielding control.
The year started off with Prince Charles and the Foundation for Integrated Health announcing the arrival on the scene of the government backed Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, or Ofquack. This was something of an ambush on the various factions of homeopaths. They have been fighting amongst each other, trying to poach members and accusing each other of dastardly crimes and not being true homeopaths, but on one thing they appear to be unanimous: their opposition to CNHC and ‘federated regulation’. What this means is that they do not want to be regulated by non-homeopaths. Heaven forbid someone who does not ‘understand’ homeopathy, ever tell them what they can and cannot do.
But the CNHC know that the various groups’ objections to Ofquack do not mean that individual homeopaths will object. There may well be advantages of being seen to be regulated by the Princes’ organisation, not least of all that it might well be a lot cheaper then the subs that the SoH demand. So, CNHS have been ploughing on as if there is no problem and appearing in newspapers and on the radio telling the world that homeopaths are happy and ready to join.
No so fast.
Today, the Society of Homeopaths have upped their game and issued a press release to tell the world that they, and they alone, are ready to set up a single register. If the CNHC succeed, SoH may well cease to exist in a year or two. They are planning their counter attacks.
Consultation commences today on regulation of homeopaths.
The Society of Homeopaths resolves to divest regulatory framework from its membership organisation to create the UK’s first independent single register and regulatory body for homeopaths
The Society of Homeopaths, Britain’s largest professional association of homeopaths, today announced that it has begun a wide-ranging consultation as it prepares to launch the UK’s first independent single register and regulatory body for homeopaths. Following a recent meeting with the Department of Health, the Board of the 30 year old Society resolved to divest its self-regulation and governance arm from its membership and continuing professional development functions in order to create a first-class regulatory body, which will govern the professional practice of an
expanding number of homeopathy practitioners.
What this means is, at the moment, a bit confusing. First of all, what is new? SoH already have the largest single register and if it wasn’t for those pesky, breakaway splitters, the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths, they would have a near monopoly. They make no mention of working with other homeopaths groups and so we must assume that it this is an initiative solely within the Society and aimed at wrong footing the CNHC. How will they get ARH splitters to join the new SoH backed register and not Ofquack? My guess is that SoH believe that ARH will fold quicker than a spineless internet service provider as soon as members stop renewing their subscriptions.
There is also the implication that they are doing this with the approval of the Department of Health. But we know we have to be dead careful with Society press releases. Things should not be taken at face value. We know that the Department of Health are planning to bankroll CNHC for the next year and so it is unlikely they are supporting both initiatives. We must assume that the Society mean exactly what they say: they had a meeting with the DoH and then they embarked on this initiative. Two unrelated facts. They might have well have said that they had a bowl of cornflakes, brushed their teeth, and then decided to divest themselves of their self-regulatory powers.
The press release then goes on to praise the high level of self-regulation within the Society of Homeopaths. Regular readers here will know how difficult that is to accept. Despite obvious, numerous and well documented breaches of their code of ethics, there is little evidence of the Society ever making any adjudications and disciplining any of their members. They say in press releases that they have a “transparent complaints process”. Can you find a list of their cases considered on their web site? We know complaints have been made. Where is the transparency?
So what is going to happen? Well, it looks like there is going to be a consultation,
Commenting on the Board’s resolution and the consultation process, Chair designate, Jayne Thomas said: “Today marks an important watershed in our profession. The consultation is to be widespread. We are seeking the views of patients, other homeopaths, the many colleges and universities that train the professionals, other organisations in the homeopathy field and of course politicians from all parties.
The one group that is conspicuously absent is scientists and the medical profession. And in that we see that this is one more futile bit of gesture and power politics. This is about control of the profession and not about protecting the public. My guess is that my opinion will not be welcome at this consultation.
If protecting the public was paramount then any regulatory structure must take into account the quality of advice that is given out by homeopaths. Both the CNHC and SoH want to control training standards but neither want to take on the content of that training. We know there is a deep problem within the homeopathic community that their training makes them systematically incompetent. They are trained not to recognise and actively reject normal standards of scientific evidence. They are trained to accept unquestioningly the teachings of their founder Samuel Hahnemann as if it was revealed truth. And in doing so they pose a real danger to their patients that they will offer useless or even dangerous advice, and worse, they will undermine the relationship that they might have with their GP. The failure of the Society of Homeopaths to tackle the problem of members giving out dangerous anti-malaria advice effectively rules them out as a competent body in regulating the profession.
Professor Dame Joan Higgins, who set up the CNHC, suffers from the same problem. Professor Higgins has recently given a presentation reviewing progress and expectations. One slide notes that there has been ‘press criticism’ that CNHC will ‘endorse quackery’. Well I never! How does she respond to this criticism?
FWG role was not to evaluate the effectiveness of CAM and it did not have the capacity to do so. Its task was to establish a regulatory structure to protect the public not to promote CAM. This does not mean that it was positive/negative about CAM. It did not take a view.
This statement is somewhat disingenuous in that no one would expect them to evaluate the effectiveness of CAM, or at least homeopathy. That evaluation has already been done. Homeopathy is the ritualised prescription of plain sugar pills for all illnesses. As such, it is pure placebo and the best clinical evidence to date suggest that this is just the case. It is not a hard problem to understand. In principle, it is perfectly possible to draw up a set of regulations that take this into account.
So, Professor Higgins also washes her hands of the rather inconvenient problem that homeopathy does not work as described but practitioners are too deluded to work competently within the boundaries set by that knowledge. Whilst we have all these fighting organisations struggling to come out on top as the pretend regulators of the profession, we will have no one prepared to protect vulnerable people from homeopaths who practice their ‘healing art’ without care as to what is true and what is not true.
I wonder what is going to happen next?
Well, the CNHC will be late in setting up. There are already signs of slippage. There has only just been an advert go out to look for a Chair of the body. For an organisation that has stated it is ready to go in April, that looks rather late. A new chair may not be up and running until mid Summer at the earliest.
It’s all going to be a complete shambles.
Your contribution to the consulation can be made by sending thoughts to [email protected]rg