The National Health Service (NHS) of the UK has announced a ban on homeopathy and herbal medicine as they say it is “misuse of scarce funds”.
Officials today ruled that the treatments are among dozens of medicines which should not be funded by the health service. In the last five years, the NHS has spent almost £600,000 on homeopathic treatment, despite long running debate about whether alternative remedies work.
Today NHS England ruled that “at best homeopathy is a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds which could be better devoted to treatments that work.” Health officials said cash-strapped clinical commissioning groups should no longer fund such medicines, along with 16 other classes of treatment classed as “low value” because they are ineffective or could easily be bought over the counter.
Proponants of homeopathy and herbal medicine include Prince Charles, and the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is among those who have signed motions in favour of it. NHS England said the changes aimed to save at least £250m a year. Patients will be told to pay for their own treatment for dozens of common ailments, including indigestion, sore throats and athlete’s foot.
Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “The NHS is probably the world’s most efficient health service, but like every country there is still waste and inefficiency that we’re determined to root out. Health officials said the NHS is spending around £545m a year on treatments which are available over the counter, though they do not expect to recoup all the funding.
The products include cough mixture and cold treatments, eye drops, laxatives and sun cream lotions. And NHS bodies will be told not to pay for a number of specific treatments, such as omega 3 supplements, lidocaine plasters and fentanyl painkillers. Health officials said the NHS is spending around £545m a year on treatments which are available over the counter, though they do not expect to recoup all the funding.
The consultation covers around 3,200 such prescription items. Health officials said many of them were readily available and sold “over the counter” in pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations, corner shops and other retailers, often at a significantly lower price than the cost to the NHS.
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, said: “At a time when we need to find all the money we can for new, highly effective drugs we must ensure every pound is spent wisely. An honest, plain English conversation is required about what we should fund and what we should not.
Health officials said products on the list were “relatively ineffective, unnecessary, inappropriate or unsafe for prescription on the NHS”. The Department of Health is also consulting on cutting back spending on gluten-free products. Patients’ groups expressed some concern.