A major taxpayer-funded centre for homeopathic, herbal and alternative medicines will no longer be providing these remedies on the NHS after health service chiefs said homeopathy was “at best, a placebo”.
The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (RHLIM), formerly the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, describes itself as the “largest public-sector provider of integrated medicine in Europe”.
Integrated medicine centres offer alternative remedies, such as acupuncture and herbal medicines, alongside more evidence-backed interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy, for managing conditions like pain and insomnia.
Policy changes by NHS commissioners in London will now end funding for those without robust evidence, in line with national guidance.
A patient leaflet from University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust, which RLHIM is part of, says: “From 3 April 2018, The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (RLHIM) will no longer be providing NHS-funded homeopathic remedies for any patients as part of their routine care.”
A statement on the RLHIM website said it would also “no longer be providing NHS-funded Herbal Medicine for any patients as part of their routine care”.
“This is in line with the funding policy of Camden Clinical Commissioning Groups, the local NHS body that plans and pays for healthcare services in this area,” the statement added.
Non-evidence backed treatments can still be purchased privately.
The statement continued: “Should you choose, you will be able to purchase these medicines from the RLHIM pharmacy, while other homeopathic pharmacies may also be able to supply the medicines.
“You can speak to your clinician or the RLHIM pharmacy at your next visit about this.”
Critics of homeopathy welcomed the change, saying it left just Bristol and Glasgow funding homeopathy in the UK.
Remedies are made up of ingredients which cause that condition or replicate its symptoms, based on the premise that “like will cure like”, and are then diluted to one part in a trillion.
According to the NHS: “Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms.”
However, systematic reviews of the evidence found it was no better than a placebo for 0 out of 68 illnesses.
NHS England wrote to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for an outright ban on homeopathic remedies on the NHS and changed its guidance to make clear it should not be routinely funded.
Chief executive Simon Stevens, ahead of the health service’s review of homeopathic, herbal and alternative remedy funding, said: “At best, homeopathy is a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds which could better be devoted to treatments that work.”
Michael Marshall, project director at the Good Thinking Society which has been tracking NHS funding of homeopathy and campaigning against it, told The Independent: “This now should mean that homeopathy is finished in London, saving the NHS £3m.
“We’ve already tackled and ended funding across the majority of the rest of the country, leaving just Bristol and Glasgow as the last remaining pockets of NHS homeopathy spending”.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson, said: “We are delighted by the announcement by The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine that it will end public funding of a pseudo-scientific ‘medicine’ that for decades has failed to show any beneficial outcomes for patients. The Hospital has in recent years been responsible for the majority of state funding.
He added that some state-funded Steiner schools also still fund these services and this will be "increasingly difficult to justify".