The Department of Health (DoH) has responded to my query on homeopathy with the following:
“We recognise that many people find complementary and alternative medicine helpful in alleviating the symptoms of certain illnesses, especially those illnesses for which orthodox medicine does not appear to offer a complete answer. We also appreciate the fact that the public is increasingly making use of complementary and alternative treatments and products, including homeopathy.”
‘Many people…’, ‘the public is increasingly making use of…’. Now, that just sounds like an appeal to popularity, doesn’t it? Or perhaps it’s a circular argument: people use it, therefore people are justified in using it.
“We consider that decision making on individual clinical interventions, whether orthodox or complementary treatments, is a matter for local NHS service providers and practitioners as they are best placed to know their community’s needs.”
“In making such decisions, they have to take into account evidence of the safety, clinical and cost-effectiveness, the availability of suitably qualified practitioners, and the needs of the individual patient. Clinical responsibility rests with the NHS professional who makes the decision to refer and who must therefore be able to justify any treatment they recommend.”
If the NHS professionals making the decision to refer have to take into account evidence of the clinical effectiveness of the treatment and justify the treatment, how is it possible for homeopathy to be available on the NHS?
“PCTs often have specific policies on the extent to which patients can be given access to complementary and alternative therapies and, within these policies, it is open to GPs to give access to specific therapies, including homeopathy, where they consider it in the interests of the individual patient”
So, homeopathic remedies must first pass the twin barriers of local PCT and GP before they are flogged to (possibly unsuspecting) patients. [Some people who take homeopathic remedies don’t realise that they are being sold ‘medicines’ containing no active ingredient, possibly because homeopathy is sometimes equated with herbal medicine. If you want to know more about homeopathy, follow the links from this previous blog post]
I wonder if my local PCT has a policy on CAM.