An overview of NHS homeopathy

NHS homeopathic hospitals

As well as around 400 GPs who integrate homeopathy into their practice in the UK, there are three NHS homeopathic hospitals – Bristol, London and Glasgow. All have been part of the NHS since it was founded in 1948. These are consultant-led services staffed by fully qualified doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who have additional training in homeopathy and other complementary therapies such as acupuncture. Patients are referred to the NHS homeopathic hospitals in the usual way – by their GP or specialist.

The homeopathic hospitals are a unique asset to the NHS, for several reasons:

  • They offer patients genuine choice of treatment by providing evidence-based, highly professional complementary medicine.  Most patients are unable to afford private treatment.
  • Although small they are highly innovative: for instance acupuncture for pain and complementary cancer care, both now widely available in the NHS, were pioneered by the homeopathic hospitals.
  • They have made important research contributions, for instance researching “effectiveness gaps” – conditions for which GPs lack effective treatments – and the outcome and cost-effectiveness of complementary medicine.

The hospitals help many patients including those with complex chronic problems and for whom conventional medicine has proved ineffective or caused with serious side-effects. The treatments offered by the homeopathic hospitals are complementary to, and integrated with, conventional treatment. Treatment is provided by qualified healthcare professionals working within the NHS.

Hospitals at risk

Although the government has re-affirmed its commitment to homeopathy in the NHS, local NHS commissioning and the financial crisis currently affecting the NHS have placed these unique national assets at risk. Decisions that affect patients’ ability to choose their treatment are being made to satisfy short-term financial needs by NHS commissioners who have little understanding of the value that homeopathic hospitals provide.

Comparing numbers

NHS spending on homeopathy is very small.

Total NHS budget: £110 billion

Annual spend on inpatients with adverse reactions to drugs: £466 million

Annual spend on management consultants: £300 million

Annual spend on homeopathy: £4 million

The contracts the homeopathic hospitals have with Primary Care Trusts are a minuscule proportion of the NHS budget – and yet make such a big difference to patients. Outcome studies from the hospitals consistently show that well over two thirds of patients feel better after treatment.