Views & Reviews Personal View

The NHS is right to fund homoeopathy

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d2642 (Published 04 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2642
  1. S Clare Stanford, reader in experimental psychopharmacology, Department of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Pharmacology, University College London
  1. c.stanford{at}ucl.ac.uk
ROB WHITE

The campaign to expel homoeopathy from the NHS continues unabated despite a position statement from the Department of Health: “We believe in patients being able to make informed choices about their treatment, and in a clinician being able to prescribe the treatment they feel most appropriate … which includes … homeopathy.” To put this skirmish into perspective, the NHS spends about £4m (€4.5m; $6.6m) a year on homoeopathic prescriptions, which is peanuts. Even if subsidiary costs are rolled in, this battle is clearly more about winning a scientific argument, and protecting patients from themselves, than preserving NHS coffers.

To avoid being misrepresented, let me be clear that I am not pro-homoeopathy. I would not use homoeopathic preparations myself, and I do not believe that they have actions that can be measured in vitro. So should homoeopathy be available on the NHS? Absolutely. That is not to say that all alternative treatments should be funded by the state. Homoeopathy within the NHS is an historical accident. By analogy, most people can live with the fact that nicotine and alcohol …

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