The NHS has suggested that doctors should cease prescribing homeopathic medicine.
Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive. asserted that “at best, homeopathy is a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds which could better be devoted to treatments that work”.
Although the amount of money spent on homoeopathy is minimal at present, less than £100,000, the recommendation of the healthcare authorities is to phase it out completely.
Homeopathy utilises highly diluted doses of natural substances that some believe help the body to heal itself.
But there has been criticism of this controversial form of medicine, and some healthcare professionals assert that it ultimately does more harm than good.
Indeed, recommendations set out in a consultation document suggest that there is a “lack of robust evidence of clinical effectiveness” to supports the implementation of homoeopathy, calling on GPS to cease from prescribing it to patients.
“Often patients are receiving medicines which have been proven to be ineffective or in some cases dangerous,” the document states, noting there are often “more effective, safer and/or cheaper alternatives”.
Regardless of the effectiveness or otherwise of homoeopathy, it must be stated that the amount currently spent on it within the NHS system is so trivial as to be almost completely meaningless.
Indeed, 1.1 billion prescription items were signed off by doctors at a cost in excess of £9 billion in the most recent financial year; meaning that homoeopathy accounts for around 0.01% of the overall prescription budget.
New national guidelines outlined 18 treatments that should generally not be prescribed to patients from hereon in.
Other treatments that could soon be banned by the NHS include herbal treatments, lidocaine plasters, omega-3 fatty acids and unlicensed use of the painkiller co-proxamol.
Stevens went on to suggest that the new policy is intended to improve the efficiency of the healthcare system.
“The NHS is probably the world’s most efficient health service, but like every country there is still waste and inefficiency that we’re determined to root out. The public rightly expects that the NHS will use every pound wisely, and today we’re taking practical action to free up funding to better spend on modern drugs and treatments.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, cautiously supported the move, while also asserting that eliminating some items currently available on prescription risks alienating some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“We know that a number of treatments are of little or no value, and are at best a placebo. We also know many other medications are available very cheaply over the counter and are much more readily obtainable than when they first became available on prescription, and both GPs and the public should be mindful of this. But imposing blanket policies on GPs, that don’t take into account demographic differences across the country, or that don’t allow for flexibility for a patient’s individual circumstances, risks alienating the most vulnerable in society.”