Call to axe alternative treatment on NHSHomeopathy is dubbed 'an implausible treatment'

23 May 2006

A group of leading British scientists believes the NHS should stop using complementary medicine and spend the money instead on treatments that are 'based on solid evidence.'

In a letter to the Times, the scientists raise concerns about what they say is the overt promotion of homeopathy in parts of the NHS.

Homeopathy is dubbed 'an implausible treatment for which over a dozen systematic reviews have failed to produce convincing evidence of effectiveness'.

Prince of Wales backs alternatives

The letter was signed by Michael Baum, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at University College, London, together with 12 other scientists. These include Nobel Prize-winner Sir James Black and Sir Keith Peters, President of the Academy of Medical Science.

The letter was sent as the Prince of Wales - a staunch supporter of complementary medicine - prepares to address the World Health Assembly in Geneva on the subject today.

It specifically criticised two initiatives - a government-funded guide on homeopathy for patients, and the Smallwood report, commissioned by Prince Charles, which suggested greater access to complementary therapies in the NHS might lead to widespread benefits.

'It's up to doctors'

The letter concludes: 'At a time when the NHS is under intense pressure, patients, the public and the NHS are best served by using the available funds for treatments that are based on solid evidence.'

But a Department of Health spokeswoman said it was up to individual clinicians and trusts to decide whether they thought a complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) was the best treatment for a patient.

She said:'We know it is important that as more people turn to these therapies a solid evidence base is developed. That's why we have provided nearly GBP 3 million to develop CAM researchers to help build research capacity. We have also provided GBP 324,000 for three research projects looking at the role of complementary therapies in the care of patients with cancer.'