In numbers: Scotland’s only homeopathic hospital

The Centre for Integrative Care is based at Glasgow's Gartnavel Hospital. Picture: Robert Perry

The Centre for Integrative Care is based at Glasgow's Gartnavel Hospital. Picture: Robert Perry

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Scotland’s only homeopathic hospital remains a popular destination for patients despite three NHS health boards deciding to end referrals to it in recent years.

The Centre for Integrative Care, based at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital, said it offers “a multidisciplinary approach to care”.

We are concerned that scarce funding will be spend on ‘treatment’ that no scientific evidence base to support its use

Dr Peter Bennie, BMA Scotland chairman

The latest figures for 2014-15 saw 333 inpatient and days cases being treated at the centre along with 7,778 outpatients - a slight drop from 359 inpatient and day cases and 8,007 outpatients in 2013-14.

The centre, which has a staff of seven doctors, 12 nurses and two two physiotherapists, could also become the location of a new centre for the treatment of chronic pain if chosen by the Scottish Government.

But medical opinion is divided on whether public money should be spent on homeopathy at all.

The British Medical Association (BMA) believes it should receive no further NHS funding.

In December last year, NHS Lanarkshire took the decision to no longer refer patients to the centre, which was formerly known as Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital.

Dr Harpreet Kohli, the board’s director of public health, said there was “insufficient evidence” that homeopathic remedies were beneficial to patients’ health following a four year review.

It followed previous decisions from NHS Highland and NHS Lothian to end referrals to the facility.

The Scotsman reported in September that Scotland’s health boards spend nearly £2 million a year on homeopathy services - £1.33m of which came from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The Centre for Integrative Care is one of four across the UK funded by the NHS.

It treats patients with serious health problems, including cancer, with conventional medicine combined with alternative therapies.

Medical scientists believe the supposed benefits of alternative therapies are no better than placebos.

But the British Homoepathic Association said there was a growing demand for alternative therapies, which were already integrated into health systems in several EU countries such as France and Germany.

BMA Scotland chairman Dr Peter Bennie said: “While the BMA supports the policy to allow NHS Boards to make their own decisions about how to spend their resources, we are concerned that scarce funding will be spent on ‘treatment’ that has no scientific evidence base to support its use.

“We believe that limited and scarce NHS resources should only be used to support medicines and treatment that have been shown to be effective.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is for individual NHS Boards to determine what complementary or alternative therapies they make available based on the needs of their resident populations, in line with national guidance.

“Decisions regarding the care of individual patients are a matter of professional judgement for the clinician in consultation with their patient.”

In August, Honor Watt, a 73-year-old grandmother, lost a legal battle to force NHS Lothian provide homeopathic medicine as part of her treatment for arthritis.

The 73-year-old grandmother’s solicitors claimed the Equality Act 2010 placed an obligation on the health board to ask patients for their views on whether homeopathy funding should be continued.

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