December 1, 2020

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Society of Homeopaths under review amid claims standards chief promoted anti-vaccine propaganda

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Social media accounts linked to Sue Pilkington have been posting anti-vaxx material over Facebook The...

Social media accounts linked to Sue Pilkington have been posting anti-vaxx material over Facebook
Social media accounts linked to Sue Pilkington have been posting anti-vaxx material over Facebook

The Society of Homeopaths’s official accreditation is under threat, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal, after their head of standards was accused of promoting anti-vaccine propaganda online.

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which regulates health professionals, has launched an emergency review of the body’s status after an investigation by this newspaper.

Social media accounts linked to the homeopathy practice operated by Sue Pilkington, a former NHS GP practice manager, have been posting anti-vaxx material over Facebook and Twitter.

Last month, she was unveiled as the SoH’s new safeguarding lead.

In a now-deleted interview on the SoH website, she revealed that her role was to “liaise” with the PSA on government accreditation steps.

The PSA, which regulates several statutory bodies including the General Medical Council, renewed SoH’s accreditation in February but with strict conditions.

One stipulates that registrants must not, in a personal or professional capacity, “provide advice on vaccination or offer or provide homeopathy as an alternative to vaccination for the prevention of serious infectious diseases”.

But material published on Ms Pilkington’s accounts, all published prior to her SoH appointment, may have breached the relevant social media rules as stipulated by the PSA.

Material published on social media is being investigated by the Professional Standards Authority
Material published on social media is being investigated by the Professional Standards Authority

On April 14, she reposted anti-vaxx content made by the Children’s Health Defense – an organisation accused by NBC News last year as being one of the largest global creators of spreading ‘misinformation’. 

The page advised that any new vaccine could trigger “lethal” immune reactions.  

In a separate post on Facebook, Pilkington reshared a post that describes vaccines as “poison” – alongside medical advice declaring that no child should be vaccinated if any member of their family has a skin disorder.

The next day Pilkigton tried to contact Health Secretary Matt Hancock, attempting to share with him a video of content from an American comedian who claims that it’s ‘realistic’ for vaccines to cause autism.

Via Twitter, she told Mr Hancock that she was unable to message directly but hoped he would find the video “useful”. On her homeopathy business website, Pilkington also has a headlined section on coronavirus.

“The current primary homeopathic remedy advised for Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) symptoms is Gelsemium with a possible following remedy of Eupatorium Perforatum, Bryonia or Belladonna depending on how the symptoms progress,” she says.

She goes on to state that other homeopathic remedies are in common use for people with influenza and pneumonia – noting that these do not “prevent viruses” but may “reduce the severity and length of illness”.

She also states that homeopathy has a “great track record of success in epidemics” – referencing both the Spanish influenza pandemic and the bird flu pandemic.

“We are now investigating the concerns raised by you under our processes” said a PSA spokesperson.

“We will raise these with the register and have the discretion to convene a panel to take action if we are satisfied the concerns are made out and sufficiently serious.

“Breaches of conditions would normally warrant a panel consideration.”  

The PSA confirmed that an in-year review of the SoH had now been initiated, adding that this was undertaken “when information is raised that requires investigation”.

The policing of anti-vaxx propaganda was one of several strict conditions placed upon the SoH to enable them to gain accreditation, a move that averted a Judicial Review late last year.

The Sunday Telegraph understands that the Good Thinking Society (GTS), the charity who had instigated proceedings, is now actively considering the legal implications of decisions pending by the PSA.

The government regulator has since posted a statement on their website stating that a review was being undertaken.

“In our opinion, the PSA has a simple choice to make: remove the SoH and their uninformed vaccination paranoia from the register, or continue to allow homeopaths to make these dangerous claims with the tacit approval of the PSA.” said Michael Marshall, projector director of the GTS.

Last year NHS chiefs tried to have the SoH blacklisted over fears of anti-vaxx propaganda, with chief executive Sir Simon Stevens warning it “gives homeopathy a veneer of credibility”.

Professor Edzard Erns, a retired professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, said: “The past statements by Sue Pilkington make it very clear that she is an anti-vaxxer, as such she should not see patients and certainly not hold an office in a professional healthcare organisation.”

A government health spokesperson said: “Vaccine misinformation in any form – book, film, website or otherwise – is completely unacceptable.”

The spokesperson added that NICE does not recommend homeopathy for the treatment of any health condition – noting that vaccines “save lives and are a foundation of public health.”

Sue Pilkington said: “I am working with the Society regarding this complaint so it would be inappropriate for me to comment.” 

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