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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 01:02 GMT
NHS trusts 'reject homoeopathy'
Vials of homeopathy medication
It is becoming harder to get homoepathic treatment on the NHS
NHS primary care trusts are slashing funding for homoeopathic treatment amid debate about its efficacy and the drive to cuts costs, a study has suggested.

More than a quarter have stopped or cut funding for such services, research by the GP magazine Pulse has found.

The Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, the country's largest, confirms it has lost eight contracts in a year and referrals are down by 20%.

High-profile critics of homoeopathy welcomed the development.

The controversy over the therapy has been raging for years.

It is based on the principle of treating like with like, so someone with an allergy who was using homeopathic medicines would attempt to beat it with an ultra-diluted dose of an agent that would cause the same symptoms.

But while patients often report that it makes them feel much better, clinical evidence that it works is lacking, and some scientists argue the solution is so diluted it does not contain any active ingredients at all.

Soldiering on

The investigation into 132 primary care trusts found only 37% still have contracts for homoeopathic services and referrals are decreasing.

I'm confident, for various reasons, that we will survive
Peter Fisher
Royal London Homeopathic Hospital

The clinical director of the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, which last year warned it may have to start charging patients, said he was nonetheless confident it would survive.

"For one, there's a lot of public and political support," said Dr Peter Fisher, adding that in any event homoeopathy comprised only 40% on the services on offer, which included nutritional medicine and relaxation techniques.

A spokesperson from the Faculty of Homoeopathy, which represents doctors, said the centres in the UK offering such treatment provided good value for money.

"The homoeopathic hospitals provide a specialist service that has helped hundreds of thousands of NHS patients over the last 60 years and has extremely high levels of patient satisfaction.

"They are particularly well equipped to treat patients whose complex chronic health problems have not been effectively treated by conventional medicine."

Nearly two years ago, a list of eminent doctors put their names to a letter urging the NHS to stop funding the treatment.

Michael Baum, a professor emeritus of surgery who organised the campaign, welcomed the news that funding was being cut.

"The NHS should be putting its money into evidence-based medicine, so this is a good start," he said.

"But while people are starting to realise they are being conned by the whole complementary medicine establishment, it will be a long time before we see the back of it."

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