Friday, October 08, 2010

More Homeopathy on Britain NHS as Health-cash is squeezed

Homeopathy spending on the NHS could now rise despite the Health Service facing drastic cuts.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley yesterday rejected calls from MPs on the Commons science committee to ban funding of the unproven treatment.

He effectively gave the green light for spending on homeopathy to go up, because of his plans for patients to be able to ‘shop around’ until they find a GP willing to prescribe complementary therapies.
This means more patients will have access to such treatments. There will be no restrictions on the advertising of homeopathic treatments, he added.

Taxpayers pay about £4million a year for homeopathy on the NHS.
Critics responded with fury at the prospect of an increase at a time when some local Trusts are cutting back on cataract operations, hip replacements and IVF treatment.
Homeopathy, which counts Prince Charles among its fans, claims to treat and prevent disease by using greatly diluted forms of herbs and minerals.
It is based on the principle that ‘like cures like’ - that an illness can be treated by substances that produce similar symptoms.
For example, homeopaths claim that onions, which make eyes itchy and tearful, can be used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever.

In support: Health Secretary Andrew Lansley yesterday rejected calls from MPs to ban funding of the unproven treatment
Scientists point to the fact that the ‘cures’ are so diluted that they cannot possibly claim to include a single molecule of the original substances.
The homeopathic industry does not dispute this, but says that its remedies retain a ‘memory’ of the original ingredient.

In May, Dr Tom Dolphin, deputy chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee in England, told the group’s conference: ‘Homeopathy is witchcraft. It is a disgrace that nestling between the National Hospital for Neurology and Great Ormond Street Hospital there is a homeopathic hospital paid for by the NHS.’
The Commons science select committee was calling for homeopathy to no longer be funded on the NHS. And the Government’s chief scientific adviser, John Beddington, has said he believes that the ‘evidence of efficacy and the scientific basis of homeopathy is highly questionable’.
But yesterday the Department of Health said that efficacy was not the only important factor when deciding whether scarce NHS resources should be spent on a treatment - patient choice was essential too.
It said: ‘We believe in patients being able to make informed choices about their treatments, and in a clinician being able to make informed choices about their treatments.
‘The local NHS and clinicians, rather than Whitehall, are best placed to make decisions on what treatment is appropriate for their patients - including complementary or alternative treatments such as homeopathy - and provide accordingly for those treatments.’

It said doctors should even be able to prescribe homeopathy simply for a 'placebo effect'.
Evan Harris, a former Lib Dem member of the science committee who lost his seat at the last election, said: ‘It looks like Prince Charles has been in touch with the Health Secretary again.
‘Patients who are denied the choice of expensive but effective new medicines for serious conditions are now entitled to ask why Mr Lansley allows the NHS to spend money on ineffective treatments in the name of “patient choice”.’

BMA head of science and ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, added: ‘We believe that limited and scarce NHS resources should only be used to support medicines and treatment that have been shown to be effective. We are concerned that scarce funding will be spent on “treatment” that has no evidence base and that may not work.’
Last week Mr Lansley told MPs that patients should shop around for GPs willing to prescribe complementary therapy.

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