Alternative sums

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The decision by NHS Lothian to withdraw funding for homeopathic remedies comes at rather an odd time.

Last year, following a major review, the Swiss government decided that homeopathy was a lot more cost-effective than conventional medicine.

In a national referendum, two-thirds of the population voted to integrate complementary and alternative medicine into the Swiss healthcare system.

Subsequently, following the Health Technology Assessment – described as “the most comprehensive review to date of any governmental body on the scientific evidence of homeopathic medicine” – the Swiss minister of health approved reimbursable payment for five of the most popular alternatives, including homeopathy, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.

The government also examined whether homeopathy was saving or costing money by studying data from Swiss health insurers.

Doctors specialising in homeopathy cost at least 15 per cent less than conventional doctors, even for chronic or serious cases of ill-health.

From the NHS budget of around £100 billion a year, just £4 million is spent on homeopathy – 0.004 per cent – a negligible amount.

Dr Mary Gillies (Letters, 15 July) demonstrated that the actual 
savings from the closure of the NHS homeopathy service were just £80,000, and that the patient vote, omitted from NHS Lothian’s 50-page report, was, at 83 per cent, overwhelmingly in favour of continued funding.

Perhaps the chairman and medical director of Lothian Health Board should pay some attention to what’s happening in other parts of the world.

Ian Grant Cumming