Homeopaths Withdraw From Health Accreditation Scheme as New 'Public Interest' Test Is Introduced

Priscilla Lynch 

August 10, 2021

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) — the government body which oversees and accredits health care bodies — is to introduce a new 'public interest' test as part of its Standards for registers of health and care roles not subject to statutory regulation.

The Society of Homeopaths has now announced that it is to withdraw from the accreditation scheme, which it had taken part in since 2014 but had been suspended from in January 2021 following various concerns by the Authority and external groups.

The Authority's new public test will allow it to weigh up whether the evidence about the benefits of treatments covered by a register outweigh any risks. It will also consider how clearly and accurately the register and its registrants describe these benefits and risks. This will help to make sure that patients, service users and employers can have confidence about choosing services from someone on an accredited register, the Authority said.

Alan Clamp, Chief Executive at the Authority, said: "The introduction of a 'public interest' test supports informed patient choice and reduces the risk that a register is accredited if it is unable to evidence how its members support health and wellbeing."

"We look forward to continuing to work with the UK Governments and employers from the wide range of settings in which Accredited Register practitioners work, to achieve the greater levels of recognition and use of registers that are essential for the programme to be effective in protecting the public."

The new Standards come after a public consultation on the scope of the Accredited Registers programme, which the Authority said received strong support from stakeholders, in particular patients, to take greater account of the effectiveness of treatments in its decisions about accreditation.

The Good Thinking Society, a charity that aims to promote science and challenge pseudoscience, had made a submission arguing that practitioners who offer therapies whose health benefits are not demonstrated by reliable, high-quality evidence should not be accredited.

Good Thinking brought a Judicial Review to challenge the PSA's 2019 accreditation of the Society of Homeopaths — a legal challenge that was withdrawn after the PSA imposed strict conditions on the Society in February 2020 .

Michael Marshall, Project Director of Good Thinking, said: "When we first brought our legal challenge in 2019, we argued that the PSA's logo is used by therapists as a sign that they are competent, trustworthy and safe, but that the logo and the accreditation scheme only carries any meaning if the PSA takes seriously their duty to protect the public from harmful practices."

"We are therefore very pleased to see the PSA's new Standards include a public benefit test, and we hope this allows responsible practitioners of evidence-based therapies to continue with confidence, while preventing practitioners of unproven or disproven therapies from receiving the tacit endorsement of the government's healthcare regulator."

Commenting on its withdrawal from the accreditation scheme, the Society of Homeopaths said: "Since July 2020 the Society and its members have put tremendous effort into addressing the concerns of the Authority and following the suspension of our accreditation in January 2021, we said we would take time to consider both the Authority's report and our own position. This has since been superseded by the Authority's review of its own accreditation scheme and fee structure in the light of the proposed withdrawal of its government funding."

"After a number of consultations with the Authority, it has become clear to the Society that the new fee structure for the Accredited Registers Programme disadvantages smaller organisations in favour of larger bodies, and the fee increase proposed by the Authority to the Society, aside from lacking clarity for the future, effectively prices us out of the scheme. Further changes to the Authority's standards and criteria are also still to be confirmed. The Board has therefore made the decision to withdraw from the Authority's voluntary accreditation scheme."

References:

New 'public interest' test for accreditation decisions. Professional Standards Authority. 2021 July 29.

Good Thinking welcomes new Standards from the Professional Standards Authority, and the withdrawal of the Society of Homeopaths. Good thinking Society. 2021 August 5.

Society withdraws from the PSA. Society of Homeopaths. 2021 July 23.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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