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Homeopathy no longer available on NHS in England after CCG cuts service

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The last remaining NHS funded homeopathy service in England has been axed, following a decision made today by commissioners in the South West.

Governing body members at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group today voted to stop offering the controversial treatment apart from in exceptional circumstances.

“We are working hard to become an evidence-informed organisation because we need to make the best use of all resources”

Jonathan Hayes

The decision was made as the CCG looks to save £37m this financial year. The organisation said around 41 patients received homeopathic consultations in its area in 2017-18 at a cost of £109,476.

Clinicians can still make a request to the CCG for funding if they believe their patient has a clinically exceptional reason to receive the treatment.

Homeopathy is a branch of alternative medicine based on the “like cures like” idea that highly diluted doses of a substance that causes certain symptoms can also help to treat them.

In 2010, a scientific review ordered by the government determined homeopathic remedies performed no better than placebos, while the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) does not recommend using homeopathy for any clinical condition.

Last year, NHS England recommended health professionals stop prescribing it. A subsequent legal challenge against the decision brought by the British Homeopathic Association was thrown out at the High Court.

Previously, patients in the CCG area who met a set of a criteria were referred to the Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine (PCIM) in Bristol for homeopathic support.

“Most of the referral patients have chronic conditions which have not been helped through the conventional treatment”

Cristal Sumner

In a statement, PCIM said it would continue to offer medical homeopathy for paying patients and was looking at ways to improve access for treatment.

It added: “As ever, this change in service provision most impacts those who might not know about or who can’t afford to pay for holistic approaches.”

Cristal Sumner, chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association, criticised the CCG’s decision.

She said: “It will have a negative impact on the lives of those in the care of Bristol CCG as most of the referral patients have chronic conditions which have not been helped through the conventional treatment and now have to go back to treatments that do not work for them and cost more.”

The CCG said it consulted local people, clinicians, patient groups and providers of homeopathic treatments and considered national guidelines and clinical evidence before rubberstamping the plans.

The organisation’s clinical chair, Dr Jonathan Hayes, said: “We are working hard to become an evidence-informed organisation because we need to make the best use of all resources to offer treatment and care to the widest range of people.

“The decision on homeopathy funding today is a step towards this and brings us in line with national guidelines,” he said. 

Homeopathy is one of several services that the CCG has reviewed in a bid to save cash, including over the counter medicines, breast reconstruction after cancer, cosmetic surgery, liver disease and sleep apnoea.

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