Since 2010, when the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report saying that homeopathic remedies were no better than placebos, the homeopathic profession has had to face increasing criticism and hostility. Despite only four of 15 members of the committee bothering to vote, one of whom voted against the report’s findings, and the government rejecting the report, this badly considered decision was adopted by some as the definitive judgement on a therapy that millions of people around the world find beneficial to health.
The Faculty of Homeopathy has around 800 members who are highly qualified medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons and other healthcare professionals. They have many years’ clinical experience and are regulated by their respective professional bodies. Nevertheless, they are frequently subjected to vindictive attacks from opponents of homeopathy, who attempt to denigrate their clinical expertise and professionalism by using words such as “quack” and “charlatan”. And all because they use homeopathy to bring relief to many patients whose symptoms have failed to respond to conventional medicine. Quite frankly, I am amazed at the level of hostility homeopathy encounters, particularly from those people who seem unable to have an intelligent debate on the subject without resorting to puerile language and name calling.
It is true the scientific evidence base for homeopathy is inconclusive. But that does not mean there is no evidence. There are positive randomised controlled trials – the so-called gold standard – supporting its therapeutic benefits beyond placebo. In addition, homeopathy achieves excellent results from PROMs (patient reported outcome measures) where patients report how much better they feel after receiving homeopathic treatment. Sadly, opponents of homeopathy condescendingly dismiss the views of patients, preferring to see medicine purely as a scientific subject and not a practice. If patients are finding health benefits from a therapy, what is the problem?
Another negative outcome of the campaign against homeopathy has been the widespread belief that it is no longer available on the NHS. This simply isn’t true. There is a post code lottery, but GPs can still refer patients for homeopathic treatment. In Glasgow and London there are dedicated hospitals to integrative care that offer homeopathy, and there are clinics and practitioners in other parts of the UK who will see NHS referrals.
With the NHS coming under increasing financial pressure, the government and health managers are looking at ways to reduce costs without affecting patient care. Homeopathy can play a vital role in helping to achieve this. As a therapy it is generally less expensive than many conventional treatments and when used as a complementary therapy some patients are able reduce the number of drugs they are taking. Currently the NHS spends around £4-million a year on homeopathy, a tiny fraction of the overall healthcare budget of £137.9-billion. Those who want to end all funding for NHS homeopathy to save money, conveniently forget that the patients who would be denied the therapy still need to be treated. This would inevitably lead to them receiving more costly interventions which they may not find as beneficial as homeopathy.
Homeopathy is good for patients and good for the NHS. To deny patients this treatment option makes no clinical or economic sense.