High Court Supports NHS Decision to Stop Financing Homeopathy

High Court Supports NHS Decision to Stop Financing Homeopathy
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A decision to stop NHS funding for homeopathy has been upheld by a High Court judge.

The British Homeopathic Association (BHA) brought a legal challenge against NHS England’s decision, made in November last year, to stop paying the  £92,000 annual cost of homeopathic remedies.

But, following a four-day hearing in London in May, Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed the BHA’s case in a ruling on Tuesday.

Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, welcomed the decision, describing the legal action as “costly and spurious”.

NHS England issued guidance in November last year that GPs should not prescribe “homeopathic treatments” as a new treatment for any patient.

The guidance also stated GPs should be “supported in de-prescribing” such remedies for all patients who were receiving them at that time.

The body issued the guidance as part of a drive to save £141 million a year by no longer prescribing 18 treatments deemed to be of “low clinical effectiveness” – including homeopathy and herbal treatments.

It defined homeopathy as “the treatment of patients with highly diluted substances that are administered orally” in its guidance to clinical commissioning groups.

In a report ahead of the guidance, NHS England’s board identified homeopathy as an item where there was a “lack of robust evidence of clinical effectiveness”.

The BHA, a charity which aims to ensure patients have access to homeopathy, argued NHS England’s consultation on the guidance was “unfair”.

Lawyers for the charity argued there was “plain evidence that homeopathic treatment does work in particular cases”.

However, the judge ruled the consultation process was “fair and balanced” and there was no evidence of “bias or predetermination”.

He added: “It would not be appropriate for the court to pass judgment on the legitimacy or otherwise of the view that homeopathy works.”

In a statement following the ruling, BHA chair Margaret Wyllie said: “It appears NHS England can fail to engage with patients properly on removing services and get away with it.

 

It follows a long debate about the merits of homeopathy Credit:  Cultura Creative (RF) / Alamy Stock Photo

“That is not good enough, for it is important to remember that the real losers in this case are the patients who are now being refused a treatment on which they have come to depend.”

The BHA said it will continue to champion the health benefits of homeopathy and the right of patients to choose it.

Mr Stevens said: “There is no robust evidence to support homeopathy which is at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds.

“So we strongly welcome the High Court’s clear-cut decision to kick out this costly and spurious legal challenge.”

Dr Graham Jackson, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: “It is important that we have an honest conversation with the public, patients and clinicians about what the NHS should and can provide with the constrained funds it has available.

“As a part of that, it is right that we review what is currently offered on NHS prescription so that we can prioritise our spending on those products that are the most clinically effective and provide the best outcomes for patients.”