'Firm and robust action’ pledged to tackle alternative medicine charities that fail ‘public interest’ test

The Charity Commission has pledged a crackdown on complementary and alternative medicine charities that fail to demonstrate there is a public benefit to their work.

The regulator says there is a legitimate role for such charities that “work promoting alternative therapies for comfort and relief and can deliver tangible public benefit to patients”.

But if concerns are raised about the legitimacy of their work and they cannot prove it benefits the public “then we will take firm and robust action to remove it from the register”.

The warning has been issued following the removal of the charity Gerson Support Group from the register after it was challenged to prove its work benefitted the public.

This is one of several cases the regulator is looking at involving complementary and alternative medicine charities.

Gerson had claimed to be able to relieve sickness and promote good health among cancer patients through its ‘Gerson nutritional therapy.

However, trustees have acknowledged that the evidence around this ‘therapy’ “may not be sufficient to meet the public benefit requirement”.

“This case is a practical example of how we regulate charities that offer CAM therapies, and the work we do to promote and maintain the integrity of charitable status and public confidence in charities more broadly,” said Charity Commission director of regulatory services Helen Earner.

“What matters to us at the Commission is that all CAM organisations that have charitable status – and all charities generally – can demonstrate that they provide public benefit. That is a central principle enshrined in law,” added Earner.

She added: “Our work scrutinising the activity of CAM organisations continues, and we encourage all CAM charities to consider the public benefit requirement and ensure that their own activities deliver clear public benefit.

“We are conducting a number of other ongoing cases involving concerns about some CAM organisations. In some of these cases, our concerns may be resolved through dialogue with the trustees.”

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