Last September, the Charity Commission told UK Skeptics, under the banner of the Good Thinking Society, that it would review its approach to assessing charitable status for organisations advocating CAM therapies. This happened after the Good Thinking Society threatened to sue the regulator for not de-registering charities involved with homeopathy.

After the Charity Commission announced the opening of its consultation in March 2017, natural health organisations had just two months in which to submit their views on the consultation. The focus was on 6 main questions revolving around the nature of evidence that should be needed to demonstrate ‘public benefit’, which is a legal requirement.

The debate comes at a critical time when evidence solely from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) is widely seen as insufficient when assessing the benefits of therapies used in the real world, as compared with under experimental conditions.

By way of response

Following the announcement of the Charity Commission consultation, ANH-Intl issued guidance to a large number of organisations in the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) sector in the UK to help support their applications. We submitted our own comprehensive response last Friday. In a press release on the 18th May The Charity Commission stated that they had received 300 submissions already.

We argue that the Charity Commission should not be forced into a position to make detailed judgments on complex scientific and medical issues that even experts can’t agree over. Instead, and in order to meet its legal obligations, the Charity Commission should interpret benefit and associated evidence from a much wider perspective, going well beyond the narrow limits of RCTs. Such evidence should include evidence from outcome surveys, case reports and expert reviews.

We point out that conclusive — or black and white — evidence is rarely available. Evidence is normally a shade of grey and a balance of evidence approach must be used, taking into account all available forms of credible or plausible evidence.

In its own response to the Charity Commission, the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) rightly stated that, despite a lack of costly RCT evidence for CAM therapies, there are large numbers of patient-reported outcomes, clinical audits and case studies representing positive results from both clinicians and patients alike using these therapies. Yes to Life, a well known charity advocating the use of CAM therapies has also reiterated this position in their response.

We eagerly await the outcome of this consultation. We hope that the broad range of submissions will have helped to inform a rational and balanced approach by the Charity Commission that doesn’t discriminate against organisations offering CAM therapies. This would be an abuse of our fundamental human right to choose the healthcare system of our choice.

Download ANH-Intl consultation response to Charity Commission consultation.