Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Society of Homeopaths - Withdraw from Accreditation scheme?

The Society of Homeopaths' (SoH) ongoing problems with anti-vaccination make it difficult to continue with Professional Standards Authority (PSA) Accreditation. The SoH seems unwilling and/or incapable of dealing with it. Anti-vaccination beliefs are endemic among homeopaths and long established.

Anti-vaccination beliefs among SoH members has caused the PSA to come under pressure from NHS England (NHSE) and others to remove the Accreditation of the SoH. That pressure is not going to go away nor is the media reporting. 

The SoH has very reluctantly moved towards a prohibition on its members saying anything on the matter of vaccination. It still hasn't managed this. Whilst the SoH can police its members' public pronouncements, it is resource intensive. It isn't possible to police what is said face to face to parents of children, what goes on in closed groups. Whatever the SoH does, those anti-vaccination beliefs are not going away in a hurry.

Anti-vaccination isn't the only problem. It is currently the most visible but there are others that have the potential to cause the SoH even more headache.

The SoH is in a difficult position because if acts strongly, it loses members. It may be better off withdrawing from the Accredited Registers scheme.

Decision time
The Accreditation process and its timings have been discussed multiple times on this blog. In short, the SoH need to indicate in Month 8 that they intend to carry on with Accreditation. That would be 10/09/2020 to 09/10/2020. Things don't always happen precisely on time re the Accreditation process. COVID-19 might have an impact.

The SoH likely have a Board meeting in September if dates of past board meetings are anything to go by. It really needs to make the decision whether to carry on with Accreditation or not in that meeting.

Although the SoH may tell its members of its decision shortly after the meeting, the first that the public will know is when and if the PSA invites stakeholders to "Share Your Experience". The last round of that was a painful experience for the SoH.

There are various factors that the SoH need to take into account in making their decision but the most important are:-
  1. Can it can retain Accreditation in 2021?
  2. What actions would it have to take to retain Accreditation?
  3. How many members would it lose as a result?
It also needs to consider 2022. There's little point in retaining Accreditation in 2021 if it loses it in 2022, especially if it causes significant loss of members. 

What it needs to do to retain Accreditation will be discussed in a future post.

Benefits of withdrawal
There could be cost savings beyond the £10k+ renewal fee for Accreditation. It is suspected that the SoH has a CEO is due to Accreditation. The role is understood to be quite part time but even so it probably pays more than £24k a year. The SoH managed with a CEO for many years and probably can do so again.

The SoH could immediately dump all the difficult and resource intensive tasks that the PSA has imposed on it. It can stop auditing member websites, it can stop ringing up members to persuade them to comply with its Position statements etc. It could stop dealing with what it regards as "vexatious complaints". It almost certainly doesn't enjoy dealing with concerns raised by critics but PSA Accreditation forces it to.

They might be able to retain members who are currently thinking of leaving because of increasing regulation. It might also be able to tempt some who have left back.

Resources and money free up could be used to retain/recruit members. They could be used to promote the SoH and its members. 

Withdrawal would be humiliating but less humiliating than the PSA removing Accreditation. It is virtually guaranteed to generate media headlines in a way that voluntary withdrawal might not. It would be depicted as a massive failure on the part of the SoH. Its pretensions of professionalism exposed as such. A triumph for reason, common sense and so forth. It might well provide positive publicity for the PSA, being seen to do the right thing.

Removal would hurt the Board, past and present. Anyone particularly associated with Accreditation could be hurt more. It seems unlikely that the Board would collectively accept responsibility. Finger pointing is likely to go on.

Back to the Good/Bad Old Days?
Whilst the SoH could roll back some of the changes it's had to make, it would be very foolish to roll back others. Allowing members to practice CEASE therapy again would be a really bad move (although arguably it does as long they call it Homeopathic Detox Therapy). It would be a provocation to say the least. 

What it does with anti-vaccination is another matter. 

Of course, the SoH could maintain its current position statements and simply not enforce them, which is what it used to do.

Managing the Media
One strategy might be to withdraw and issue a clear statement. Something the lines of - 
  • The supposed benefits of Accreditation have not materialised
  • It costs money that could be more usefully employed on other things
  • It diverts resourses from the core activities of the SoH
  • Members (and their clients) do not value Accreditation
  • Accreditation has placed unacceptable restrictions on what members can say and do
The SoH need to avoid attempting to put the blame on others for their withdrawal. The decision has to look like one made in its and its members best interests rather than the result of external pressures.

Playing the victim is not a good idea. It looks weak and the SoH has brought a lot of its problems on itself, largely due to inaction or half-hearted action. It's also very easy to pick apart. Invoking conspiracy theories looks silly at best, deluded at worst. 

Making an announcement when a lot is going on news-wise might mean that it never makes it into the media. Whilst withdrawal might cause a lot of excitement among critics, they have a limited audience.

The SoH doesn't have to justify itself to the media. It can make its statement and not engage further. The SoH's key audiences are its members, prospective members and their (potential) clients. 

Negative Media coverage
This isn't going to go away but the SoH will become less of a media target in terms of no longer having special status. It may attract greater attention than some of the other UK homeopathy associations because it is the largest but on the other hand, individual homeopaths who belong to the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH) or no association at all tend to gain more media attention because they are often more extreme in their beliefs.

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