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This is great news, being reported all over the shop just now. People like Michael Marshall and the Good Thinking Society have been campaigning for this long and hard, and it has paid off. In all honesty, homeopathy has reduced on the NHS over the years and only accounts for a tiny percentage of outgoings. But it all helps, and sets a good precedent. It is also not just confined to homeopathy.

The Independent states:

Doctors should stop prescribing homeopathic medicine to NHS patients, the health service has said. The change has been proposed because “at best, homeopathy is a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds which could better be devoted to treatments that work”, said Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive.

The NHS currently spends £92,412 a year on the natural “treatment”, which uses highly diluted doses of natural substances that some claim help the body heal itself….

The new national guidelines name 18 treatments that should generally not be prescribed and sets out action on limiting the prescription of around 3,200 products, such as eye drops, cough mixture and sun cream, that are commonly available over the counter in chemists and supermarkets.

Other treatments that could soon be banned by the NHS include herbal treatments, lidocaine plasters, omega-3 fatty acids and unlicensed use of the painkiller co-proxamol, which was withdrawn from the market in 2007 due to safety concerns. In March it was revealed that the cost-cutting plans could stop NHS doctors from providing travel vaccinations and prescriptions for hayfever tablets and gluten-free food for coeliacs.

“The NHS is probably the world’s most efficient health service, but like every country there is still waste and inefficiency that we’re determined to root out,” said Mr Stevens. “The public rightly expects that the NHS will use every pound wisely, and today we’re taking practical action to free up funding to better spend on modern drugs and treatments.”

Humanists UK are recognising this as a real victory in terms of thinking and policy:

In announcing the historic change of policy, NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens described the homeopathy as, ‘at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds.’ The change means that homeopathy will no longer be funded through the NHS in England, as is already the case in Northern Ireland and Wales. However, it will not impact the funding of homeopathy in parts of Scotland, or through Steiner schools in England which are funded by the Department for Education.

Homeopathy is a pseudoscientific medical concept invented by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, which is based on the idea that ‘like cures like’. Homeopaths dilute substances thousands of times beyond the point of containing any of the original substance whatsoever, and then sell the resulting products in sugar pills as ‘cures’ for various diseases and ailments. In well over 200 years, no rigorous scientific test has ever shown efficacy for homeopathic remedies beyond that of a placebo.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We applaud NHS England for taking this evidence-based decision, whose consequence will be greater funding for important things like patient care, staffing, and medicines that really work. We very much hope to see these new guidelines brought into full effect before too long… undiluted!

‘For several years now, homeopathy funding has been steadily reduced as more and more local NHS trusts saw to apply rational thinking and common sense to their funding choices. However, the piecemeal nature of these decisions meant that many thousands of pounds were still being poured down the drain. We’re glad to see that, subject to consultation, the waste will now end in England as a whole, and we congratulate the Good Thinking Society and other campaigners who helped make this happen.

‘We’ll now be looking to intensify the pressure on NHS Scotland to follow the positive example set by Northern Ireland, Wales, and now England, and bring an end to this state-funded pseudoscience in the UK once and for all.’

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...