Health bosses’ ‘serious concerns’ over homeopathy

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By BBC Health news

Health bosses have expressed “serious concerns” over the possible re-accreditation of the UK’s largest group of registered homeopaths.

In a letter to the Professional Standards Authority, they said it gives “a false impression” to the public that their treatments are “clinically and scientifically established”.

Homeopathy should not be recommended to the public, health chiefs say.

NHS England recommended that GPs stop providing it in 2017.

It says there is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition.

The Society of Homeopaths said it would not be commenting while its re-accreditation was currently being considered.

‘Fundamentally flawed’

Chief executive Simon Stevens and NHS national medical director Stephen Powis wrote to the Professional Standards Authority, saying: “This is a vital issue at a time when there is a rise of mis-information about vaccines – some of which is apparently promoted by homeopaths – and which poses a significant danger to human health.

“The basis of their practice remains fundamentally flawed,” the letter said.

It went on to say that NHS England had issued guidance based on the latest clinical evidence “to ensure that patients are not prescribed items such as homeopathy that could be unsafe, ineffective or where there are more cost-effective alternatives”.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens added: “Anything that gives homeopathy a veneer of credibility risks chancers being able to con more people into parting with their hard-earned cash in return for bogus treatments which at best do nothing, and at worst can be potentially dangerous.

He said homeopathy was “no replacement for rigorously tried and tested medical treatments, delivered or prescribed by properly-qualified professionals”.

The NHS, the Chief Medical Officer and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s position is that homeopathic remedies are not scientifically validated, or recommended to treat any health conditions.

But the government said around £55,000 was spent on NHS prescribing of homeopathic products last year.

Anyone can practise as a homeopath in the UK, without any qualifications or experience.

The Professional Standards Authority accredits organisations, such as the Society of Homeopaths, which have a register of homeopathy practitioners.

The authority said it did not comment on live cases or any applications currently being assessed.

Its decision to grant re-accreditation to the Society of Homeopaths earlier this year is set to be challenged in a judicial review by the Good Thinking Society.

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is based on the concept that diluting a version of a substance that causes illness has healing properties.

So pollen or grass could be used to create a homeopathic hay-fever remedy.

One part of the substance is mixed with 99 parts of water or alcohol, and this is repeated six times in a “6c” formulation or 30 times in a “30c” formulation.

The end result is combined with a lactose (sugar) tablet.

Homeopaths say the more diluted it is, the greater the effect.

Common homeopathic treatments are for asthma, ear infections, hay fever, depression, stress, anxiety, allergy and arthritis.

The NHS itself says: “There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition.”