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   Jul 22

NHS to ban homeopathy and herbal medicine, as ‘misuse of resources’

The NHS has announced a ban on homeopathy and herbal medicine as they say it is “misuse of scarce funds”.

Officials today ruled that the treatments are among dozens of medicines which should not be funded by the health service.

In the last five years, the NHS has spent almost £600,000 on homeopathic treatment, despite long running debate about whether alternative remedies work.

Today NHS England ruled that “at best homeopathy is a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds which could be better devoted to treatments that work.”

Health officials said cash-strapped clinical commissioning groups should no longer fund such medicines, along with 16 other classes of treatment classed as “low value” because they are ineffective or could easily be bought over the counter.

Proponants of homeopathy and herbal medicine include Prince Charles, and the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is among those who have signed motions in favour of it.

NHS England said the changes aimed to save at least £250m a year.

Patients will be told to pay for their own treatment for dozens of common ailments, including indigestion, sore throats and athlete’s foot.

Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “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.”

Health officials said the NHS is spending around £545m a year on treatments which are available over the counter, though they do not expect to recoup all the funding.

The products include cough mixture and cold treatments, eye drops, laxatives and sun cream lotions.

And NHS bodies will be told not to pay for a number of specific treatments, such as omega 3 supplements, lidocaine plasters and fentanyl painkillers.

Health officials said the NHS is spending around £545m a year on treatments which are available over the counter, though they do not expect to recoup all the funding.

The consultation covers around 3,200 such prescription items.

Health officials said many of them were readily available and sold “over the counter” in pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations, corner shops and other retailers, often at a significantly lower price than the cost to the NHS.

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, said: “At a time when we need to find all the money we can for new, highly effective drugs we must ensure every pound is spent wisely. An honest, plain English conversation is required about what we should fund and what we should not.

“We need to end unnecessary expense to give us a bigger therapeutic bang for the NHS buck so we cut the fat and build the therapeutic muscle.”

Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, agreed plans to cut spending on prescriptions Credit: PA
Health officials said products on the list were “relatively ineffective, unnecessary, inappropriate or unsafe for prescription on the NHS”.

The Department of Health is also consulting on cutting back spending on gluten-free products.

Patients’ groups expressed some concern.

Don Redding, Director of Policy at National Voices, said: “Whilst some treatments are available to purchase over-the-counter, that does not mean that everyone can afford them.

“There will be distinct categories of people who rely on NHS funding for prescriptions of remedies that are otherwise available over-the-counter.

“Stopping such prescriptions would break with the principle of an NHS ‘free at the point of use’ and would create a system where access to treatments is based on a person’s ability to pay.”

Prof Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor, University of Exeter, a leading critic of alternative medicine, said the decision to stop funding homeopathy was “long overdue”.

“Since it was first invented ~200 years ago, homeopathy has been criticised for flying in the face of science and common sense.

“We have now known for decades that the most reliable studies fail to show that highly diluted homeopathic remedies are more than placebos.

“The NHS has a legal, moral and ethical duty to spend our scarce funds wisely; I cannot think of a less prudent way to spend them than on homeopathy,” he said.

Source: The Telegraph

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