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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
NHS urged to reject homoeopathy
Homeopathy
Homeopathy has long been controversial
A group of leading scientists are stepping up their campaign to get the NHS to turn its back on homoeopathy.

The experts, led by Professor Gustav Born, of Kings College London, have written to NHS managers urging them not to fund the complementary therapy.

It comes a year after they first wrote because of what they say is a lack of evidence it works. Early data suggests the NHS is turning its back on it.

But supporters of the therapy said it was an important part of the NHS.

Homoeopathy is a system of therapy based on the concept that disease can be treated with drugs in minute doses thought capable of producing the same symptoms in healthy people as the disease itself.

There are still trusts that continue to use these unproven remedies through clinics and prescriptions
Professor Gustav Born, of Kings College London

Homoeopathic products can receive a licence if they can provide data proving the treatments are safe.

But they do not have to produce evidence of efficacy from clinical trials, unlike conventional medicines.

Data obtained by the scientists and the Times newspaper shows that over half of England's 150 primary care trusts, which pay for local services, are either not providing funding, planning to withdraw funding or restricting funding.

Specialist units

More than 20 of the trusts have made the move in the last year after the original letter by leading scientists.

And there may even have been more than that as more than 40 trusts did not provide data.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The NHS should drop homeopathy. It's a pseudo-science
Jack, Newcastle

However, it is not clear whether they have acted because of doubts over whether the treatment works or because of financial difficulties.

Professor Born said he was pleased with progress that had been made although it was "slower than we'd have liked".

"There are still trusts that continue to use these unproven remedies through clinics and prescriptions.

"While it may be tempting to dismiss homoeopathy expenditure as relatively small across the NHS, we must consider the cultural and social damage of maintaining as a matter of principle expenditure on practices which are unsupported by evidence."

The Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital - one of only four specialists units in the country - has already reported that trusts have "stopped or drastically reduced" funding.

Dr Peter Fisher, clinical director of the hospital, has said it presents a serious threat to the future of the hospital and urged the NHS to resist the attempts of scientists to discourage them from funding patients for homoeopathic treatment.

He said: "I think there is a lot of evidence it works when it is integrated within the NHS."




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