BHA Response Part 1: The Policy on NHS funding and provision of homeopathy

In the first of a linked series, the BHA provides detailed comments on the recommendations of the Science & Technology Committee’s “Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy” issued on 22 February 2010. 

Part 1:  The policy on NHS funding and provision of homeopathy (Recommendation 1)

1. We recommend that the Government determine the total amount of money spent by the NHS on homeopathy annually over the past 10 years, differentiating homeopathic products, patient referrals and maintenance and refurbishment of homeopathic hospitals, and publish the figures. (Paragraph 15)

The total spending is of little relevance without an indication of the benefits.  We would welcome an analysis of the costs and benefits of the work of the NHS homeopathic hospitals and of GPs who integrate homeopathy in practice.  It is important to note, as the Science and Technology Committee has failed to do, that the NHS homeopathic hospitals offer more than homeopathy.

The largest of these hospitals, the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital (RLHH) offers a range of complementary therapies, integrated with other services of its parent Trust, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; these include integrated pain, cancer, antenatal and children’s services.  It has introduced a number of innovative services to the NHS, including the NHS’s first acupuncture service (1977) and first musculoskeletal service (1995); both these therapies have recently been endorsed in NICE Guidelines for the treatment of chronic low back pain.  The RLHH provides the website for NICE’s NHS Evidence – Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital is The Centre for Integrative Care, and combines orthodox medicine with a range of complementary medicine.  Critically, its approach is built on an integrative model of person-centred therapeutic enablement and an emphasis on skilling people in self-management of long-term conditions (such as patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, for whom its service covers the whole of Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS).  The centre’s models of care have helped inform Scottish Government policy on Long Term Conditions management, and reflect the aims of the Scottish NHS Quality Strategy.  The centre has developed research in this area, for example being the point of origin of the CARE measure of consultation quality that is now being extensively adopted, with Government backing, for professional development and quality monitoring in the UK and internationally.

As part of Liverpool PCT, the Liverpool Department of Homeopathic Medicine offers complementary cancer therapy using Iscador – a mistletoe-based anthroposophical medicine – and homeopathic medicine.  It also offers some herbal remedies given in mother-tincture form.  The Department is currently in negotiation with a local oncology hospital to establish a complementary cancer clinic where Iscador and homeopathic medicine can be given alongside chemotherapy.

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust provides homeopathy at Bristol Homeopathic Hospital for patients who require it alongside all appropriate conventional care.  The service is commissioned from the Trust by various PCTs in the region and is provided within a safe, regulated environment under the guidance and governance of the NHS.  The Cancer Care Service offers an important regional service with referrals direct from oncologists and specialist nurses.  The hospital provides care of up to 1,000 new patients and 3,000 review patients, managed by a team of ten doctors, at an estimated running cost of £500,000 per year.  It is at present carrying out a clinical trial to evaluate comparative costs to the NHS of a cohort of homeopathic users versus non-users; the study is due to report in autumn 2011.

Dr Sara Eames, President, Faculty of Homeopathy
Dr Peter Fisher, Director, Royal London Homeopathic Hospital
Dr Robert T Mathie, Research Development Adviser, British Homeopathic Association
Ms Cristal Sumner, Chief Executive, British Homeopathic Association