Edinburgh grandmother loses bid to force NHS to fund homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies at a pharmacy. A grandmother has lost a court case to try to force a health board to resume funding for homeopathic treatments. Picture: Getty Images

Homeopathic remedies at a pharmacy. A grandmother has lost a court case to try to force a health board to resume funding for homeopathic treatments. Picture: Getty Images

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A GRANDMOTHER has lost her legal battle to force a health board to provide alternative medicines on the NHS.

Honor Watt, 73, sued Lothian Health Board at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after the authority stopped providing homeopathic treatments to ­patients.

The board decided in June 2013 that the money spent on holistic alternatives would be better spent on conventional medicines. A number of medics believe there is no proof that homeopathy, a form of holistic medicine used by more than 200 million people worldwide, can successfully treat conditions.

Mrs Watt suffers from arthritis and received homeopathic medicine for her debilitating condition.

Her lawyers claimed the NHS board acted illegally by deciding to end funding. They claimed the Equality Act 2010 placed an obligation on the health board to ask patients for their views on whether homeopathy should continue to be funded.

The legislation states that health boards have an obligation to consider decisions in the terms of what is called a public sector equality duty (PSED), designed to tackle racial, sex and class discrimination.

But yesterday Judge Lord Uist ruled that the board acted legally and refused to overturn its decision. In a written judgment, he stated: “It is clear to me from an examination of the relevant documents that the board was from the outset consciously focusing on its PSED.”

The judgment states that Mrs Watt, from Dalkeith, Midlothian, was first referred to the homeopathic service in 2003 suffering from anxiety.

She was given a homeopathic medicine called Bovista after telling medics that conventional medicine was not controlling her arthritis.

In January 2014, she was given a final appointment with the homeopathic service and was told she was no longer entitled to homeopathic treatment on the NHS.

However, the judgment states that Mrs Watt still receives a prescription of homeopathic medicine.

Lothian Health Board decided to end homeopathic provision after concluding the money would be better spent on conventional treatments.

The board made the decision after a consultation exercise, concluding a very few NHS users would be affected.

A report by NHS employee Alyson Malone set out the reasons why funding alternative treatments should end.

Lord Uist wrote: “In that ­report she [Ms Malone] stated that the withdrawal of funding for homeopathic services would have a limited negative impact on patients and staff, the ­majority of patients were from more affluent areas and it was felt that they could perhaps ­afford to self-fund alternative provision.”

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