Homeopathic savings don’t add up

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The Lothian public has been repeatedly informed that closure of the NHS homeopathy service will save nearly £250,000. Yet health board papers, available at www.nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk, show that actual savings from closure will be only £110,400 (staff pay of £80,000 plus annual prescribing costs of £30,400).

A further board report states: “It must be noted that direct cost release from cessation of the service would not realise £250,000, and would simply release direct staffing costs. Prescribing costs would potentially be transferred to GP prescribing budgets.”

This leaves actual savings from closure at £80,000. It is a serious matter for an NHS health board to permit headlines that more than treble actual NHS savings. The public is thereby misled.

I would be misleading the public also if I left it at that. In two years’ time, NHS Lothian will save a further £57,600 by stopping its block contract with NHS Glasgow, payment for the referral of Lothian patients to the Glasgow Homeopathy Hospital. Lothian has stated that it will honour this contract until it runs out in 2015.

However, it seems no Lothian patients will be able to benefit from this ongoing payment, as all referrals to Glasgow are to be stopped.

A second figure that fails to appear in NHS Lothian’s 50-page report on the consultation on homeopathy is the patient vote. This is a curious omission given 
Scottish Government’s stated aim to “improve and embed patient-reported outcomes and experience across all NHS Scotland services”. Who better than patients of a service to report on its benefits?

In fact 83 per cent of patients (of the homeopathy service) voted in favour of funding continuing, yet the public is left unaware of this figure.

Indeed a presenter on Radio Scotland inaccurately stated that “patients do not want the service” and was not corrected by the senior NHS Lothian representative present.

Whatever anyone’s views on homeopathy, we are all affected if public bodies fail to make important facts clear to us, the public.

Dr Mary Gillies

Retired GP and representative on NHS Lothian’s stakeholder homeopathy group

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