NHS Finance

07.06.18

High Court bid against NHS restriction on homeopathy prescriptions lost

The British Homeopathic Association (BHA) has lost is High Court battle against NHS England's decision to stop funding homeopathic medicines.

At the end of last year, NHS England published guidance to restrict prescriptions for 18 ineffective, unsafe or low clinical priority treatments, which included homeopathy, with the hope of saving up to £141m a year.

However, the BHA claimed that it had identified “serious flaws” in the way that the health commissioning authority consulted the public on the issue and so sought a judicial review.

Its main claims against NHS England were that the consultations misrepresented homeopathy and was therefore unfair, and that a report used in the consultations to inform the public was “so complicated it would deter rather than encourage people to respond.”

These claims were dismissed by the judge.

Chair of the BHA, Margaret Wyllie, said that health bosses were unfairly manipulating the consultation process and making decisions about healthcare services without genuine patient engagement.

She accused NHS England of failing to engage with the public, which she said was demonstrated by the fact that there were less than 3,000 responses to a national consultation that ran for three months.

“The statement was so prejudicial it was widely reported in the media that the decision to deny patients homeopathic medicines had already been taken. How the judge failed to recognise that this was a deliberate attempt by NHS England to unfairly influence the public is astonishing,” she added, claiming that the only information about homeopathy provided by NHS England was an outdated, critical report, too long and complex for the public to read.

In March, the UK’s largest hospital for alternative medicine, the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, announced that it would stop offering homeopathy from April.

Dr. Graham Jackson, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, welcomed the High Court’s decision, arguing that the guidance that limits the routine prescribing of produce of low clinical effectiveness is an important element of ensuring that the NHS’s finite budget is spent effectively.

He added: “It is important that we have an honest conversation with the public, patients and clinicians about what the NHS should and can provide with the constrained funds it has available.

“As a part of that, it is right that we review what is currently offered on NHS prescription so that we can prioritise our spending on those products that are the most clinically effective and provide the best outcomes for patients.”

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, explained: “There is no robust evidence to support homeopathy which is, at best, a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds.

“We strongly welcome the High Court’s clear-cut decision to kick out this costly and spurious legal challenge.”

The BHA says that it will continue to champion the practice.

Top image: amesy

 

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