The Good Thinking Society is challenging the Professional Standards Authority’s reaccreditation of the Society of Homeopaths. Why is this important?

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) say that they are “here to protect the public and help ensure their health and wellbeing by raising standards in the regulation and registration of people working in health and social care”. Within their activities they provide a set of accredited registers so that as a member of the public you can “choose a practitioner to meet your needs with confidence”. It would therefore be reasonable to expect that the PSA have vetted the providers of their accredited registers to ensure that the treatments their members offer to the public are suitable, effective and, most importantly, safe. However, it would appear that this is not always the case.  Some members of the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) offer a treatment called CEASE therapy. This is a treatment for autism based on the false premise that vaccinations cause autism and that this can be “cured” through a combination of homeopathy, high dose vitamin C and dietary restriction. The link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly disproved; see this for instance, and there is no evidence that CEASE therapy provides any benefit. The PSA has acknowledged that CEASE therapy is potentially harmful and they are aware that this treatment continues to be provided by some members of the SoH. In order to protect the public, it would therefore be reasonable to expect the PSA to no longer accredit the SoH. In actual fact they have done quite the opposite and on 1st April 2019 they approved accreditation of the SoH for a further year. This decision seems to be in direct conflict with the purpose of the PSA which is to protect the public. No child with autism should be subjected to CEASE therapy and it is very good that the Good Thinking Society is challenging this decision by the PSA via judicial review.

Wider implications

The particular issue here being addressed here is protecting people with autism from being exposed to the completely unsuitable CEASE therapy. This in itself is very important. However, this judicial review potentially has wider implications. It also brings into question whether regulation in the UK actually fulfils its key function of protecting the public or instead lends legitimacy to unproven, unsuitable and potentially harmful treatments. This is important as it would appear that the current approach of the PSA (and other regulators) is not effective in protecting the public from harm from unsuitable treatments.

How can you help?

Here are a few ideas of things that you could do to support the Good Thinking Society with their judicial review:

  • Make a donation
  • Share information about the campaign on social media, such as Twitter or Facebook.
  • Raise awareness with local groups that provide support to people with autism and / or parents of children with autism such as charities or local parent carer forums.
  • Get in touch with the Good Thinking Society to find out how else you could help.

Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy Conference 2017: Osteopaths embracing quackery

quackeryThis weekend (8th and 9th April 2017) it’s the Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy Conference. The osteopathy profession in the UK currently has major issues with many osteopaths making misleading claims about what they can treat in order to lure patients into their practices. I have previously highlighted that this problem also exists with some of the training being offered to osteopaths. The Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy Conference seems to be taking this misleading training information to a whole new level. Talks at the conference include:

  • “Osteopathic Support of the Immune System in Infancy and Childhood”
  • “Special Aspects of Treating Unborn Babies”
  • “Vaccination – the Science”
  • “The Immunity Spiral – How being ill can make kids better”

You will notice that there is a focus in the above talks on medical care and treatments. In the UK, osteopaths are not licensed to practice medicine so they have no business doing anything to do with the immune system, vaccination decisions or, heaven forbid, treating unborn babies! All of these are things that should be handled by medical professionals and osteopaths shouldn’t be learning about them. With regards to the immune system, there is no evidence that any osteopathic treatment can help the immune system. “Osteopathic Support of the Immune System” is therefore a fallacy.

The talk about “Vaccination – the Science” is particularly interesting. It’s being given by Dr Jayne Donegan who, from her website, appears to be anti-vaccination. She is also a homeopath and recommends it for a range of different conditions including bruising and shock, burns and scalds and fever management. Homeopathy isn’t effective for any of these conditions, or anything else for that matter. She supports disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield who wrongly claimed that the MMR vaccine can cause autism. Oh dear. It is well known that some alternative medicine practitioners recommend against vaccination. Might this talk result in more osteopaths becoming anti-vaccination? That can’t be a good thing for the health of their patients or the public as a whole. After the talk, the Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy posted this on twitter “Dr Jayne Donegan inspired us about how to treat acutely ill children, and boost immunity naturally”. It’s quite incredible that osteopaths are being offered training in treating acutely ill children. Acutely ill children need proper MEDICAL help from a DOCTOR not quackery from an osteopath. They certainly don’t need their immune system “boosting naturally”.

The Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy has recently been the subject of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority due to making unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of osteopathic treatment for babies, children and pregnant mothers. This complaint was informally resolved after they updated their website. However, they still do not comply with the guidance and continue to make misleading claims. This includes suggesting that osteopathy can help babies “recover from delivery” and treat indigestion and heart-burn in pregnant mothers. There is simply no evidence to support osteopathic treatment in these situations. They also suggest that babies would benefit from an “osteopathic check-up”. Babies receive perfectly adequate checks in the hospital after they are born and are subsequently monitored by health visitors. Osteopathy has no place in this and osteopaths are not the right people to be carrying out checks on newborn babies. By suggesting otherwise, osteopaths are blatantly misleading parents. Through their conference, the Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy are now providing training to other osteopaths in the very things that they shouldn’t be treating and therefore spreading this misleading information more widely. Other authors have written about how osteopathy is closely linked with pseudoscience. Conferences like this suggest that osteopathy is fully embracing quackery.

Osteopaths seem to be continuously trying to widen their scope of practice, presumably to increase their income. However, by trying to move into areas that they have no skills and for which their treatments are not effective they are putting their own income ahead of the needs of patients. This is a dangerous game and in the long-term can only be harmful to the reputation of the profession.