Edinburgh Skeptics welcomes the findings of the NHS Lothian homeopathy consultation particularly that it’s results show overwhelming support for an evidence based approach to NHS services with 73.5% (1,930 versus 664) of all respondants and 74% of individual respondants (69% of all respondants being based in Lothian) believing that NHS Lothian should not pay for homeopathy.
The usual suspects were all present in support of NHS Lothian continuing to offer homeopathy largely based upon personal experiences and a dissatisfaction with “conventional” medicine. Reference was made to the flawed Swiss Government commissioned report on homeopathy which deliberatly lowered the standards for evidence quality required to turn a negative results (using the most high quality evidence) into a positive (by counting low quality studies that showed an effect).
Reference was also made to the difference in cost between homeopathic services and pharmaceuticals. Making the rather quaint observation that it is cheaper to run a tap for a few minutes than to develop and manufacture a drug that actually works.
Patient choice was another angle the pro-homeopathy lobby took in their defence of this largely disproven therapy. Edinburgh Skeptics position on patient choice remains thus: “Patients should be able to choose from proven and evidence based treatments. Allowing patients to choose between treatments with a robust evidence base and those where evidence is lacking sets a dangerous precedent. There is no choice between treatment and placebo. No choice between treatment and a few kind words and a sugar pill.” Individuals are still able to choose homeopathy in private should they wish but we weclome the consultations results that seem to suggest there is no significant support in favour of wasting tax payers money funding it.
In short homeopathy is an unevidenced based relic or alternative medicine. Over the two hundred years since it’s invention by Samuel Hannhenman in Germany it has resolutely failed to show it has any real benefit as a medical treatment. Edinburgh Skeptics welcomes the consultation response and hope that NHS Lothian acts appropriately in ending the funding of magic water on the NHS and using the money saved, as meagre as that amount may seem, to fund more appropriate and evidence based treatments and care.
The money saved on funding homeopathy could potentially improve the service and make a small yet significant difference to the provision of patient care in these austere times.
Further to this the 21st Floor notes that the cost overall to NHS Lothian from funding homeopathy is estimated to be £240,000. This amount may seem negligible, a drop in the ocean, but it could fund 8 community staff nurses or between 6 and 3 specialist doctors. In those terms the money that is currently spent on homeopathy has the potential to improve patient care almost immeasurably in these austere and understaffed times.
We also note that overwhelmingly health professionals who replied to the consultation were not in favour of homeopathy provision citing the stark lack of evidence for it’s efficacy. Though a small minority believed it to be of help to a small group of patients.
Overall we join Edinburgh Skeptics in welcoming the results of this consultation.
UPDATE: The results can be found here