But it’s social

Andy Lewis aka le canard noir tells us the Society of Homeopaths are applying to become accredited as a voluntary professional register with the Professional Standards Authority.

Professional how? Standards of what? Professional standards in what universe? What “professional standards” are even possible for homeopathy?

I wonder if homeopaths ever get charged with malpractice.

Back to our black duck friend.

Should the PSA approve their application, it will mean that the PSA, rather than ensuring standards in health care, has become a direct threat to public health.

The PSA are calling for feedback by the 17th of January on the Society of Homeopaths before they approve them. Perhaps you might want to let them know what you think about their fitness against the stated standards.

That sounds like a good project to me.

So I take a look at the professional standards [pdf] that Andy linked to. Right at the start I see a problem –

Standards for organisations holding a voluntary register for health and social care occupations

Uh oh…

The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care¹ oversees statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK. We assess their performance, conduct audits, scrutinise their decisions and report to Parliament. We also set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredit those that meet them.

¹ The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care was previously known as the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.

Hoo-boy. I can see homeopathy making it in because of that “Social Care” addition. It could make it in as “Social Care” but then of course use the accreditation to make homeopathy seem valid as Health Care, which is to say, medical treatment. Andy gives ten compelling reasons why they shouldn’t, but concludes that they probably will anyway because

 Recently, in the House of Lords, a quesiton was asked about “whether they intend to appoint a scientist to the Professional Standards Authority”. The response from Earl Howe was frightening,

My Lords, the Government have no plans to change the membership of the council of the Professional Standards Authority. The authority is required under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations, and accredits those which meet these standards. It is not required to make a judgment on the beliefs and practices of individuals registered with the organisations that it accredits.

Let that sink in. The regulator has no obligation to consider the beliefs and practices of those it wishes to regulate.

Even more shocking perhaps was the response of Baroness Pitkeathley, who just happens to be the Chair of the PSA.

Does the Minister agree that as by next March more than 75 occupations and 100,000 practitioners will be covered by the accredited voluntary register scheme, the public are much better informed and better protected than they have ever been?

It is not clear how Pitkeathley thinks that the public are going to be better informed and protected by her rubber stamping the most egregious form of quackery that we have to put up with.

What a mess.

To remind you, if you wish to make your views known about this issue, then you have until the 17th of January to send a submission to the PSA about the suitability of the Society for accreditation.


  1. Donnie says

    Not being English, could the certification be dependent upon carrying malpractice insurance?

    – Incapacitcated from vaccine preventable disease because you took a homeopathic vaccine, sue for damages
    – Incapacitcated due to a “reaction” from a chiropractic adjustment, sue for damages
    – Incapacitcated due to a collapsed lung, contaminated needles from accupenture, sue for damages

    In the States, forcing alternative practicers to carry malpractice insurance would reduce its usage, and protect its consumers from quack practicers. Would that be feasible in England?

  2. AsqJames says

    I’ll go have a look at the standards later, but I don’t think “health and social care” is quite so split into “health” and “social care”.. In this context “social care” usually means providing non-medical assistance to people who are unable to care for themselves in some way due to an illness or other health condition. It’s not quite that limited (e.g. those working in local authority child protection services are covered), but I think I’m right in saying we’re not talking about anyone who provides a sympathetic ear, a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit.

  3. RJW says

    As usual, the problem is not the ‘practitioners of alternative medicine’ but the useful idiots in authority who pander to the Western public’s monumental scientific ignorance by legitimising such toxic nonsense.

  4. Dunc says

    Hang on a minute… I’m not sure if I’m reading this correctly, but it looks to me like the PSA doesn’t set standards for practitioners, only for “organisations holding voluntary registers” of practitioners – i.e. the standards apply to how the registers are maintained, rather than the people on them. It’s not a regulator, it’s a meta-regulator.

    You know what I wonder about homoeopaths? I really want to know how they do Quality Assurance testing… Mainly because an admission that they don’t (and indeed, can’t) could actually be damaging to public confidence in a way that endless explanations of how it’s all obvious bullshit evidently wont.

  5. latsot says

    I think AsqJames is right. “Social care” is jargon: it has a fairly specific and reasonably well-understood meaning. The reason they are considered together in an act is that they are very closely related; people with ill-health often need other sorts of care and people who are socially disadvantaged are more likely to suffer from ill health. Or to put it another way, caring for people’s health is a part of general lifelong caring.

    I don’t think homeopaths could claim to be providing social care. Of course, I don’t think they can claim to provide health care either, but for a different reason.

  6. latsot says

    @Dunc: homeopaths’ claims are deliberately vague for exactly that reason. You’ll often find elaborate and specific claims on their websites (fewer since they tried to sue Simon Singh 🙂 but if you show up at their *ahem* clinics they’ll spend more time telling you that there are no guarantees and that they need to spend (and charge you for) half a lifetime finding the exact magic to use than in administering the magic itself.

    They’ll tell you that their methods are not subject to scientific inquiry, which for some reason means you can’t test whether it works, even though you quite obviously can.

    But they’ll drone on for hours about how their magic is really great quality magic, regardless of whether it cures anyone.

    I’d *love* to see a malpractice claim against a homeopath who used the wrong magic to not cure something that the ‘right’ magic wouldn’t have cured either. Although there’s a chance that could go wrong.

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