nhs homeopathy

What is more important in medical treatment - a firm scientific foundation or the patient experience and choice? Many patients, including some with asthma, swear by homeopathy, and other complementary and alternative treatments. Yet there is little evidence (of the sort we would expect for a more conventional drug) that homeopathy has any therapeutic effect in itself. Some people believe that if homeopathy does help, then maybe it is more to do with the attention given by the homeopath to the patient, or to the placebo effect of the homeopathic dilution (sometimes so dilute as to be virtually indistinguishable from water). There is nothing to stop people buying their own homeopathic remedies if they feel they work. You can buy homeopathic remedies in many high street chemists - a fact that anti-homeopathic campaigners drew attention to earlier this year. Several of them stood outside the chemists shops and took massive 'overdoses' of homeopathic remedies as a protest at the shops for selling what they see as worthless remedies and their cynical exploitation of people's naïveté.

The debate over homeopathy really goes to the centre of what the NHS should be offering patients. For homeopathy is available on the NHS. It funds five homeopathic hospitals and remedies are available at some GP surgeries. A recent report in The Guardian said that the NHS spends as much as £4 million a year on homeopathy. Yet a Cochrane Review (the 'gold standard' on clinical efficacy, which has experts review all the evidence on a treatment) has concluded that there is no evidence that homeopathy works on asthma. So why should the NHS continue to use public money on funding it for asthma and other conditions? Things may be about to change. The government is looking at evidence from The Science and Technology Committee's Report on homeopathy (which concluded that it is hard to know how much the NHS spends on it each year). It may decide that science and cost-effectiveness are more important than patient choice and preference. The cuts are almost upon us. Will NHS homeopathy be an early victim? Let us know what you think: should homeopathy be cut, yes or no?