Scots health boards spend £1.8m on homeopathy

Bennie: BMA Scotland chair wants no further funding for homeopathy. Picture: Contributed

Bennie: BMA Scotland chair wants no further funding for homeopathy. Picture: Contributed

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SCOTLAND’s health boards are spending nearly £2 million a year on homeopathy services, according to new figures.

Some £1.83m was allocated last year towards the running costs of the Centre for Integrative Care, the only facility of its kind in Scotland.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spent £1.33m on treatment and staff at the hospital, while other boards contributed more than £500,000.

It is the second year in a row that expenditure on the hospital, part of the Gartnavel campus in the city’s West End, has increased.

The health board said the rise was due to national pay agreements and said the viability of the services was reliant on the commitment of other health boards.

However, BMA Scotland said it was concerned that “scarce funding” was being allocated to services that have “no scientific evidence base” to justify their use.

The detail of the spending, released under Freedom of Information legislation, comes as a growing number of health boards are taking the decision to cut funding for homeopathic services.

The Centre for Integrative Care is one of four across the UK funded by the NHS. It treats patients with serious health problems from cancer to motor neurone disease. Conventional medicine is combined with alternative therapies, such as acupuncture.

The overall cost of £1.83m for homeopathy services at the hospital – one of four across the UK funded by the NHS – is more than the £1.67m in 2012/13 and £1.71m in 2013/4, although the latest figure is less than the £2.1m reported in 2010/11.

Medical costs have increased over the two-year period from £547,000 to £616,000 while nursing expenditure went up from £447,000 to £494,000.

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland, said the association believed there should be no further NHS funding for homeopathy.

He 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.”

Last year, NHS Lanarkshire became the third health board in the country to stop funding homeopathy services, which provided referrals for patients in the region to the Centre for Integrative Care.

Dr Harpreet Kohli, the board’s director of public health and health policy, said there was “insufficient evidence” that homeopathic remedies were beneficial to patients’ health. The decision was taken following a four-year review which looked at evidence from patients, GPs and health professionals.

Five years ago NHS Highland became the first Scottish health board to stop new patients being referred to homeopathic services, followed by NHS Lothian in 2013.

Last month, a 73-year-old grandmother lost her legal battle at the Court of Session to force NHS Lothian to provide homeopathic medicine as part of her treatment for arthritis.

Honor Watt’s solicitors claimed the Equality Act 2010 placed an obligation on the health board to ask their patients for their views on whether homeopathy funding should be continued. But Lord Uist ruled the health board acted legally.

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