Cristal Skaling-Klopstock is Chief Executive, Homeopathy UK (formerly the British Homeopathic Association) the former Chair of 4Homeopathy (coalition in UK for promotion and defense of homeopathy), Co-President EFHPA (European Federation of Homeopathic Patients’ Associations) and a Council member, ECH (European Committee for Homeopathy).
AS: How did you come to be the CEO of Homeopathy UK, formerly the British Homeopathic Association (BHA).
CSK: I came to the UK from California in 2000 to experience life in another country for a few years – or so I thought at the time! Thanks to my US experience in medical education, I was employed by The Faculty of Homeopathy (one of the main registering bodies in the UK) as their Education Administrator even though I knew nothing about homeopathy.
Over time, I became more involved with other aspects of the Faculty and the British Homeopathic Association (BHA). At that time, the two organisations shared an office, most staff and a CEO. I started attending BHA Trustee meetings and assisting the CEO in various areas of work, applying my strategy and management skills.
In early 2008, the CEO of the Faculty and the BHA took a sabbatical and I was appointed interim CEO. Over the previous eight years I had learnt a huge amount about homeopathy – and both organisations – so when the CEO resigned, I was the natural successor. In 2016, the two organisations divided after a restructure and I became full-time CEO of BHA, which rebranded as Homeopathy UK in 2020.
A.S. : Sounds like you were exactly the right person at the right time! What is Homeopathy UK and what services does it offer? What special populations does it serve?
We are the UK’s leading charity for the promotion of homeopathy. We want everyone to understand the value of homeopathy and be able to access high-quality treatment from registered healthcare professionals.
We were founded in 1902 and although many things have changed since then, our charitable objectives have not. We are focused on the public, educating them about homeopathy and enabling them to access high-quality treatment.
Over the past two decades, provision of homeopathy in our National Health Service (NHS) has deteriorated significantly and now very few people in the UK are able to see a homeopath through the NHS. We therefore decided to launch charitable clinics across the UK to enable the public to access homeopathy free, or at very little cost.
We now operate and grant-fund a growing number of clinics across the UK. Most are open to anyone who needs care, but we also run clinics for specific groups such as military veterans, the homeless, asylum seekers, and survivors of domestic violence. Where possible, we work with other charities to support these specific groups.
Our charitable clinics run one or two three-hour sessions a month, virtually and in-person. Our main goal is to support patients, but we also want to ensure homeopaths can make a living.
Our clinics also provide invaluable data and insights, for example into conditions that patients are presenting with. This information – teamed with testimonials – is critical to securing funding to make the clinics viable into the longer term.
Sadly, less than 7% of the UK public know what homeopathy is, so another key objective for the charity is to increase awareness and education. To maximise impact, we collaborate with sector partners. In 2011, we were founding members of 4Homeopathy, a coalition of the UK’s main homeopathic organizations whose aim is to promote and defend homeopathy.
We also support education of the public and of homeopaths. We want to ensure there is another generation of fabulous homeopaths out there to meet what we know is going to be a growing demand for homeopathy and other natural approaches to healthcare.
Lastly, but importantly, we represent patients in the UK that use homeopathy. We have always been at the forefront to fight for the retention of services on the NHS. We will always respond to government and other statutory bodies when consulting about homeopathy, and in 2018 we legally challenged NHS England around their consultation to stop funding homeopathic prescriptions. This role is incredibly important.
AS: Homeopathy UK has taken on quite a big job and that’s an impressive list of accomplishments. My first thought is, how do you manage to fund it?
CSK: As a registered charity, Homeopathy UK is only able to function thanks to the kindness of individual donors, particularly those that leave us substantial gifts in their wills. Without such legacies, we would not have been able to undertake our work over the decades.
We also receive a handful of grants that help to fund our charitable clinics and support education. We are currently trying to secure additional funds to help with the operational costs to deliver the clinics, to ensure their ongoing survival.
AS: I once received an email from a fellow in the UK asking where he could find a homeopath. It turned out that he lived very close to the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital and didn’t know it. What strategies have you used to reach out to the public?
CSK: If booking an appointment with a homeopath at one of the hospitals was that easy, National Health Service (NHS) clinical provision would have remained intact without issue. Hospitals are not primary care and to access treatment is by referral only. To get a referral to the RLHIM (Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine previously the RLHH (Royal London Homeopathic Hospital), a person like you or me would need to see our GP for a complaint, have a serious enough complaint to have that complaint referred and have a complaint that would get referred to the RLHIM.
Patients don’t get referrals for homeopathy, they get referrals to be seen at the RLHIM for their complaint and once in, will receive whatever treatment/s that the clinical team decides would be of most benefit. To make things even more confusing, the GP surgeries (clinics) are part of larger regional NHS buying groups and these groups will contract with other NHS providers for referral services.
So, some NHS regions in London do contract with the RLHIM and others don’t, so you could live next to the building but not be able to be referred. As you can see, it is very hard to access services, even when you know about them!
AS: I followed the closings of all the homeopathic hospitals over the last 14 years. What strategies did the government use to instigate that? Was there no way to combat it?
CSK: The whole sector worked tirelessly to retain services. There were early day motions in Parliament and public consultations where patients vocalised their support for services. We took the NHS to court, Parliamentary petitions were set up and practitioners and patients met with their MPs, but sadly these actions did not stop closures.
The issue is never simple. As mentioned, there are contracting issues, priorities of the NHS and the general understanding that hospitals are expensive and no matter the speciality, are having to rethink their delivery methods to remain viable.
As homeopathy – and other CAM treatments are currently seen by the NHS as non-critical, the removal of contracts and refunding of homeopathic medicine charges was how the government sought to proceed – even if in the mid to long term this will lead to skyrocketing costs for the NHS, because instead of these patients’ health problems being well managed through homeopathy and other more natural treatments, a person will be given usually far more expensive pharmaceutical prescriptions, have more invasive procedures and chronic problems that cause emergency visits.
AS: I remember when Simon Stevens, the former head of NHS, took homeopathy off the NHS. How did that feel after so many years being on the NHS? Now that there is a new P.M. in the UK is there any hope for a return of homeopathy to the NHS?
CSK: To clarify, Simon Stevens was head of NHS England which covers England and Wales only, not the whole of the UK. NHS services in Northern Ireland and Scotland are different entities and in fact the Centre for Integrated Care (previously the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital) is still in operation.
In 2018, the reimbursement of homeopathic prescriptions was stopped, which had the knock-on effect of signaling to NHS regional contracting groups that NHS England no longer wanted to fund homeopathy.
Homeopathy is still available on the NHS at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, the Centre for Integrated Care and through GPs who are members of the Faculty of Homeopathy and continue to offer services through their NHS surgeries. It is a very reduced offering, but ready for resuscitation.
Homeopathy is not the only service minimised by the NHS in recent years. Many NHS commissioning groups stopped offering more than basic post-natal care, community hospitals were closed, particular medicines used by small numbers of patients were removed from being funded, etc.
Anything that can be removed without affecting large numbers of the public is fair game from administrators who are trying to save money. However, this approach fails to consider the long-term impact of the reduction in such services. We have seen the results of these decisions in recent years, with insufficient beds, increased admissions, and a sharp rise in people chronically ill with multi-morbidities.
It all seems so short sighted when healthcare needs to be oriented toward whole health. We are what we eat, the environment we live in and how we approach health. The “pill for every ill” approach is clearly not the answer and we need to put prevention, confidence around self-management of our own health and natural approaches first, not last.
Sadly, the UK government will not take a stance on homeopathy or wider CAM therapies as they are seen as niche interests. Until the majority of voters demand a new approach to healthcare, sadly integrated medicine featuring homeopathy will not be a focus of interest for the policy makers in political parties.
However, there is some hope when we look towards the next generation of voters who are already prioritising the planet. They, along with people who are already changing their mindset and behaviours towards consumption and health, should in time ideally force the creation of national healthcare systems that integrate conventional medicine with more sustainable, natural forms of complementary and alternative medicine. We can but hope!
A.S. You mentioned that homeopathy is still available at three NHS hospitals with a referral. Do any of those hospitals handle inpatients?
CSK: Homeopathy is available at two hospitals and one clinic via referral. None of the hospitals have inpatient beds.
A.S. How can people contact Homeopathy UK either for homeopathy services or to donate to the organization?
CSK: Our website – www.homeopathy-uk.org – has a wealth of information including our FindaHomeopath tool (https://homeopathy-uk.org/find-a-homeopath-search/) which enables people to search for registered, qualified homeopaths in the UK. Our website is also the best place for people to make donations – https://homeopathy-uk.org/donate-now/.
Thank you for your extraordinary dedication and service to homeopathy and to the community these many years. Thank you also for sharing your many insights and your optimism with our readers today.