Doctors should no longer prescribe homeopathic and herbal medicine to NHS patients, according to new guidance in a draft document from the health service.
The rationale behind the decision is NHS England’s conclusion that “at best, homeopathy is a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds which could better be devoted to treatments that work”.
The draft guidance explains that the use of homeopathy is “not evidence based” and says GPs should not prescribe it to new patients while also transitioning any patients that are using homeopathic methods onto other treatments.
The move comes as health bosses seek to cut costs amid funding shortages and political pressure.
According to a consultation document, the NHS currently spends £92,412 a year on the treatment, which uses highly diluted doses of natural substances that some claim help the body heal itself.
But there is little evidence to support those claims and increasing concern among the mainstream scientific community.
“Often patients are receiving medicines which have been proven to be ineffective or in some cases dangerous,” says the NHS document. It goes on to explain there are “more effective, safer and/or cheaper alternatives”.
The news may come as an unpleasant surprise to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who signed a parliamentary motion in support of homeopathy in 2010.
The motion, signed by 70 MPs across parties including Diane Abbott and Ann Widdecombe, expressed concern at a parliamentary report which was critical of the practice. That report has now formed the basis for the new NHS guidelines ending support for homeopathy.
@leftoutside I believe that homeo-meds works for some ppl and that it compliments 'convential' meds. they both come from organic matter…
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) March 5, 2010
A £40 million or so industry in the UK, homeopathic remedies claim to be able to prevent polio, typhoid and even leukaemia, as well as curing a range of symptoms from hearing loss to toothache.