Thursday, August 03, 2017

Defunding Quackery

Last month NHS England announced plans to cut down on “ineffective” treatments and instead channel the money into new drugs which are proven to help patients with illnesses. Under the plans, homeopathic remedies and selected other items including herbal medicines will no longer be prescribed to patients in England. The Humanist Society Scotland has now written an open letter to Health Secretary Shona Robison, demanding a similar review of the funding of homeopathic remedies north of the border.

Scotland could soon be the only part of the UK which still allows the NHS to spend money on homeopathy. Ministers at Holyrood are now facing pressure to follow suit, with the latest figures showing that Scotland’s health boards spend around £1.7m on the controversial remedies each year.

Homeopathy is based on the concept that diluting a version of a substance that causes illness has healing properties. NHS official guidance states there is “no good quality evidence” that it is effective for any health condition. NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens described homeopathy as “at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce funds”.

Six of Scotland’s 14 NHS health boards still funded homeopathic remedies in 2015/16, when the total stood at £1.7m. Almost £1.3m of the total was spent by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, with Ayrshire and Arran spending £214,000 and Grampian spending £177,000.

Gordon MacRae, the charity’s chief executive of the Good Thinking Society, explained “It is absolutely vital that NHS spending is directed towards meaningful and effective treatments that have a real prospect of treating illnesses and other medical complaints. Homeopathy has continually been shown, time after time, to be no more effective than a simple placebo effect. The fact that the NHS in Scotland is spending over £1.5m a year on unproven remedies will stick in the throats of patients.”

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