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Funding homeopathy research & treatment

UK

In the United Kingdom, 0.0085% of the medical research budget is spent on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), of which an even smaller proportion goes on homeopathy research.1 

Out of the total National Health Service (NHS) budget of £100 billion a year, roughly £4 million (0.004%) was spent annually on homeopathy2. This included all costs from prescriptions to salaries and the cost of running facilities, outpatient clinics and departments.

In 2016, from the total NHS England drug expenditure of £9.2 billion, only £92,412 was spent on approximately 40,000 homeopathic prescriptions3. And yet, many have called for the cessation of homeopathy spending on the basis it would save the NHS money.

NHS spending on homeopathy has now stopped.

Removal of NHS funding for homeopathy – Key Points 

  • In July 2017 NHS England published draft guidelines advising local clinical commissioning groups to stop funding homeopathic prescriptions. The reason given was that there is no evidence of efficacy of homeopathic treatment – a claim supported by a single non-academic document – the 2010 Evidence Check 2 parliamentary report.
  • During a 3-month Public Consultation on the draft guidelines, the HRI submission presented evidence demonstrating the clinical value of homeopathic prescriptions in the NHS, along with robust academic evidence of efficacy.
  • HRI has received no response or explanation as to why this evidence and argumentation was insufficient justification for continuing homeopathic prescriptions on the NHS.
  • After the Public Consultation had closed and no further input was possible, NHS England cited the Australian NHMRC report as additional justification for their decision. There was no opportunity for HRI to respond.
  • In late 2017 the NHS Board met and agreed the draft guidelines with only minor alterations in response to the results of the Public Consultation. The recommendation to stop funding homeopathy prescriptions remained unchanged.
  • In response, the British Homeopathic Association (BHA: a charity representing patients treated with homeopathy) challenged the decision in the High Court.
  • Despite this legal challenge NHS England began removing funding for homeopathy in a number of locations, including the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, where the late Dr Peter Fisher – the Queen’s homeopathic physician – worked.
  • The BHA’s legal case was heard over four days in May 2018 and examined whether NHS England had conducted their Public Consultation legally. In his opening statements, the presiding Judge Mr Justice Supperstone clarified that the court was unable to examine the issue of the scientific evidence base on Homeopathy.
  • The court ruled that the Public Consultation had been conducted legally.
  • By August 2018, funding for homeopathy on the NHS had completely stopped.

ReferencesLess

  1. Lewith GT. Funding for CAM. BMJ, 2007; 335 (7627): 951 | PubMed
  2. Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Health by the Faculty of Homeopathy. Cost was £11.89 million between 2005 and 2008.
  3. NHS Digital, March 2017. Prescription cost analysis England 2016 | Link

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Funding_shutterstock_261057710 (small)