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Homeopathy funding omitted from first wave of NHS spending review

Homeopathic pills

The millions of pounds of public money spent each year on pseudoscientific and disproven homeopathic remedies will not be addressed in the first stage of a national review of National Health Service (NHS) spending in England.

Following budget cuts to the health service, NHS England has announced new guidelines which will discourage GPs from prescribing treatments which are of no clinical value, or of very little clinical value, such as over-the-counter painkillers and cough remedies. Ten medicines put forward for initial review will be consulted on by patient groups, clinicians, and pharmaceutical providers, with a view to scrapping the provision of such treatments through the NHS. However, homeopathic treatments, which are commonly prescribed by GPs despite consistently showing zero evidence of effectiveness on patients beyond a placebo effect, were not listed for review.

In response to a query from Health Select Committee Chair Sarah Wollaston MP, NHS Clinical Commissioners Chief Executive Julie Wood later confirmed that homeopathy spending would be addressed in a future review. ‘Homeopathy is in the overall £400 million of spend [savings] identified,’ said Ms Wood.

British Humanist Association Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented ‘The NHS is under extraordinary pressure and today faces a situation where, due to budget cuts, doctors must take tough decisions about which treatments they can afford to give out to patients. At the same time, the same health service pays over £4 million a year on pills and ointments which have been proven beyond doubt to have no clinical value whatsoever. This is an absurd situation and it cannot go on any longer. We would urge the NHS and the Department of Health to move ahead quickly towards cancelling homeopathy funding and directing these resources into proven medicines and greater staff time for doctors and nurses.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at richy@humanism.org.uk.

Our campaign on homeopathy: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/ethical-and-scientific-issues/homeopathy/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

Recent years have seen a dramatic reduction in the availability of state-funded homeopathy. According to research by the Good Thinking Society, state-funded homeopathy is no longer available in Northern Ireland, Wales, the North of England, the Midlands, the South East, or East Anglia. It is, however, still funded to the tune of several million pounds per year by NHS trusts across Scotland, London, and the South West, and there is also some state funding of homeopathy in state-funded Steiner schools in the South West.

This article was updated on 31 March to reflect comments made by Julie Wood that day.

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