Health authority defend spending more than £150,000 on homeopathic remedies

Review: NHS Grampian takes into account patient reported outcome and experience measures when it comes to alternative therapy.

MORE than £150,000 was spent by NHS Grampian on homeopathic treatments last year.

Homeopathy is a complementary treatment and many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left.

Practitioners believe the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms, but critics say the treatments are no better than a placebo.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman defended the use of homeopathy by the health board.

She said: “We have a responsibility to consider all treatments available to NHS patients to ensure they offer safe, effective and person-centred care.

“We also have a responsibility to use NHS resources carefully and balance our priorities across the population as well as individuals.

“We also recognise that patient reported outcome and experience measures are valued even when objective evidence of effectiveness is limited.

“Homeopathy can be considered in this arena and we remain connected with the wider debate on its role within the NHS while regularly reviewing our local support for such services within NHS Grampian.”

Referrals to homeopathic practitioners through local enhanced services cost £37,000 and referrals to the Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital cost £7,315 in 2014-15.

We spoke two experts, a homeopath and a Professor of clinical pharmacology, to get both sides of this controversial debate.

PROFESSIONAL homeopath and former intensive care nurse Neil Spence treats people from across the North-east.

Mr Spence said his experience in intensive care showed him the limits of conventional medicine and he became curious about complementary therapy.

He said: “When a friend started talking to me about homeopathy I thought he had lost his marbles. But it seemed homeopathy could fill a gap left by orthodox medicine.

“Homeopathy is about treating the whole person, not just the symptoms of disease, and it could save the NHS an absolute fortune.”

Mr Spence said skin complaints were a common issue homeopathy could help with, as well as long-standing treatment resistant illness.

He said: “If someone is in a dangerous situation or they need surgery then they need to go to hospital.

“It’s often those with chronic, long-term problems where conventional treatment has not worked that can be helped by homeopathy.”

PROFESSOR Simon Maxwell, clinical pharmacology lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and guest lecturer Robert Gordon University, is against NHS funding of homeopathy.

Prof Maxwell said difficult decisions must be made around public health funding.

He said: “At a time when the NHS is desperately short of funding, we should reserve public money for effective, proven drug therapy.

“Unfortunately, there is has no substantial, credible evidence to suggest homeopathy works, other than findings you could explain by chance alone.

“I have absolutely no doubt there will be people who have been subject to homeopathy who have felt better.”

However, Prof Maxwell conceded: “The only harm here is when proponents lead patients to seek homeopathic remedies and delay seeking treatment through conventional medicine that might actually cure or alleviate the problem.”

Should homepathic treatments be funded by the NHS?