NHS funding of homeopathy puts ‘patient choice’ above evidence of effectiveness

Homeopathy has no place in a modern state-funded health service unless clear evidence of its effectiveness can be demonstrated, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has reiterated today. The BHA has commented in light of the coalition government’s response to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s highly critical report on homeopathy. 

The government response acknowledges the lack of evidence supporting homeopathy but insists that patient choice, rather than the efficacy of a medicine, is a guiding factor in the commissioning of services, and that decisions concerning the use of homeopathic services are to be deferred to local Primary Care Trusts. Although the government recognises that the majority of independent scientists have found ‘evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy to be weak or absent, and that there is currently no plausible scientific mechanism for homeopathy’, this informed body of evidence has not been adopted as government policy.

Naomi Phillips, the BHA’s Head of Public Affairs commented, ‘We believe the government should be sending a clear and unequivocal message that homeopathy does not work and that it should stop NHS funding of homeopathic remedies altogether, instead of permitting continued funding for homeopathy under the rubric of patient choice. The commissioning of services that are known not to work is irrational, ethically questionable, and it may divert funds away from services that are of proven value.’

Notes

The Science and Technology Committee’s Report is available here 

Read the Government’s response to the report

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips, 07540 257101, 020 7079 3585.

It is the BHA’s position that homeopathic treatments should not be funded by the NHS, that no further public money should be spent researching such treatments when the evidence that they do not work (except in some cases having a placebo effect) is overwhelming, and that pharmacists who do sell homeopathic products have a duty to make clear that there is no scientific or clinical evidence base to support the efficacy of those products.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination based on religion or belief.