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How to get homeopathy on the NHS
Keren Sall takes you step by step through the process
Before working with the BHA I had heard a lot about homeopathy and how it can help with various illnesses ranging from PMT, hayfever and infertility to migraines. I have been taking anti-histamines for hayfever now for more years than I remember and on hearing that some people had success- fully used homeopathy to manage their hayfever and were able to come off the drugs, I thought I would give homeopathy a shot.
Where to start
My first stop is the British Homeopathic Association site www.britishhomeopathic.org
I clicked the tab Getting Treatment and decided to first see if I could find a GP who was in my area who practiced homeopathy. I clicked Practitioner Search and typed in my postcode. There are three doctors, one vet and one dentist nearby. I clicked on each and unfortunately found that all three GPs only offered private homeopathic treatment. I would suggest everybody goes onto the Practitioner Search in the first instance because you might be lucky enough to find a homeopathic GP nearby to register with. If you have phoned the surgery and you are told that you can only see them privately it will because they aren’t taking on new patients or you are outside their catchment area.
My second option is to contact my GP or a specialist and ask for a referral for my hayfever to one of the homeopathic hospitals or clinics, or to a homeopathic doctor. There are four homeopathic hospitals in the UK (see below). My GP can use the Choose and Book system or apply directly to the Primary Health Care Trust (PCT) or Local Health Board on my behalf. The Choose and Book referral is for my condition/ailment not for homeopathy. It is my right as a patient to choose where I am referred to for my condition. A list of hospitals and clinics will appear on the Choose and Book system and for many conditions the homeopathic hospitals will be one of those I can choose from.
However, should my GP tell me that he/she feels that they cannot refer me, I can provide a two page summary of evidence, (which is available on the BHA website), to prove that there is a reason for a referral for my condition. The BHA can also provide me with information on my specific condition in some cases.
Should my GP still be reluctant to refer me for homeopathy on the NHS as she/he feels it is not appropriate they should be prepared to discuss the issue and give me their reasons. I may also contact my closest NHS homeopathic hospital directly to discuss my situation and they may be able to help me gain a referral.
If I am still unable to get a referral, I have three options open to me.
• Contact the BHA who will help me make a good case for asking my GP to reconsider his/her decision
• I can request a second opinion from another doctor at the practice
• Register with another GP who is open to referring patients for homeopathy
Another pitfall on the way to receiving homeopathy I might face is that I might get a referral, but find there’s no funding for my treatment. If that is the case
I can contact the homeopathic hospital where the referral is requested, as my GP may be unaware of funding arrangements for homeopathy on the NHS.
There are some PCTs in England or LHB s in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland that restrict access to homeopathy and will only fund GPs to refer patients in exceptional cases. If this is the case where I live, my referral will go to a panel of doctors and managers who will decide whether my treatment can be funded. The PCT/LHB must ensure that my case is considered on its individual merits.
If I can’t get an initial referral from my GP or specialist, or if I have a referral but funding is refused I can make a formal complaint. If I live in England and want to take my case further then I have to contact Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). I can find my nearest PALS either by contacting NHS direct on 0845 4647 or visiting www.dh.gov.uk
If I live in Wales, my local Community Health Council can point me in the right direction, www.patienthelp.wales.nhs.uk. In Scotland, the Scottish Health Council can help me, www.scottishhealthcouncil.org and in Northern Ireland the local Health Council can guide me, www.hscni.net.
If I have private health insurance I need to check with my insurer to see if it will cover me for homeopathic treatment. Many insurance companies such as BUPA, are happy to cover complementary therapies, but it is always wise to check right from the outset that your practitioner is recognised by them.
Alternatively if I don’t have insurance I can opt to pay for the treatment myself. I can choose to go and see a homeopathic doctor in private practice, who are also listed on the BHA practitioner search. Before I go for treatment I am advised to check with the doctor exactly what their charges will be. Charges can vary according to the part of the country I live in. In the South of England I ring around and find that most practitioners will charge around £100 for the first consultation as this usually lasts up to an hour. Subsequent appointments will be around half the cost. I will also be expected to pay for blood tests on top if my homeopathic doctor believes these are necessary.
It is also worth checking out whether homeopathic doctors offer reduced fees for low-income households, or children and the elderly.
There are also non-medically qualified homeopaths, but I am advised that if I choose to see one, I need to check that the homeopath is registered with an organisation such as the Society of Homeopaths and that they are fully insured.
Fighting for your rights
If like me you believe homeopathy on the NHS should be available to everyone here are some steps we can take to ensure that our voice counts.
• Write to your MP. By doing so you can make him/her aware of why she/he should back local NHS funding for homeopathy. It is always a good to give some details of your personal experience of the value of homeopathy. On the BHA site under what you can do to help section there is a sample you can use as a guide.
• Write to the PCT or LHB chief executive. If funding has been cut where you live, it will be because of a decision made by the body that runs health services in the area. In such a case you should let your PCT or LHB know that you are unhappy about it see the BHA’s sample letter. Give them details of how homeopathy has helped you. Include a copy of the BHA’s evidence summary and send a copy of your letter to your Local Involvement Network (LINk).
• Join your LINk. This body covers all health services controlled by the NHS and local authorities in the area. It can influence and shape the direction of healthcare services in your region.
• Tell the media about how NHS homeopathy has helped you as your success story can help us to achieve more positive media coverage, particularly local papers.
• Pledge support to your local homeopathic hospital. Find details of your nearest NHS homeopathic hospital on the BHA contacts for campaigners pages.
• Become a Friend of the BHA and help make promote homeopathy. Go to the BHA website and make a donation. We rely solely on voluntary contributions so you really will be making a difference.