Homeopath Brenda Goldstein discusses the attacks on homeopathy in the UK.

Homeopathy in the UK has faced challenges and suffered some major blows in recent years, thanks to certain influential groups who claim it’s ineffective. Britain has seen closures of homeopathic hospitals, as well as advertising bodies pressuring homeopaths into changing their websites to reflect not even a hint of the possibility that homeopathy might work.

HOSPITAL CLOSURES

The UK originally had five homeopathic hospitals, all of which offered homeopathy to patients since the 1948 inception of the National Health Service: The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, the Liverpool Regional Homeopathic Hospital and the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital. All but three still exist.

The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, renamed the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Health in 2010, now only has only one floor dedicated to treating patients homeopathically. Dr. Frederick Foster Hervey Quin, who studied with none other than Samuel Hahnemann, founded the hospital in 1849.

The Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, founded in 1852 and as a dispensary in 1832, now delivers reduced homeopathic services through the Portland Center for Integrative Medicine.

Anti-homeopathy sentiment continues to threaten the existence of the former Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, renamed the Centre for Integrative Care, based at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital. At least three NHS facilities in Scotland discontinued referring patients there in recent years, causing a loss in funding.

The Liverpool Regional Homeopathic Hospital closed in 2016, following the decision of the Clinical Commissioning Group to cut 30,000 pounds from their overall budget of 730 million pounds, on the misguided grounds that “there is little evidence that homeopathy has clinical benefits.”

Despite a valiant fight by patients and residents, Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital closed in 2009, as a result of pressure from groups against the NHS provision of homeopathy.

ANTI-HOMEOPATHY GROUPS

Popular British science author Simon Singh founded the Good Thinking Society, a nonprofit organization promoting scientific scepticism, in 2012. Singh also helped to set up the Nightingale Collaboration, to challenge “misleading claims in healthcare advertising.” The Merseyside Skeptics Society, founded in 2009, continues to run its “10:23” campaign, whose website says, “Homeopathy: There’s Nothing in it.” Sense About Science began in July of 2016. For the last 15 years, these groups have aggressively campaigned to get homeopathy removed from NHS provision, even though homeopathy costs a mere pittance of the NHS’ total several-billion-pound drugs-prescription bill.

ADVERTISING STANDARDS AUTHORITY

These anti-homeopathy lobby groups have pressured the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority into basically bullying homeopaths into removing anything remotely suggestive of homeopathy’s effectiveness on their websites. According to Alliance of Registered Homeopaths Chair Karin Mont in her article The Power of Suggestion (Homeopathy in Practice, Summer/Autumn 2016), the ASA began their “relentless campaign against homeopaths” in March of 2011. She goes on to sum up the ASA’s opinion of homeopathy: “There is no evidence to show that homeopathy works, therefore it does not work.”

COMMITTEE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

CAP and ASA “are essentially two sides of the same coin,” Mont writes. CAP writes the advertising code. The ASA acts as the enforcing body. CAP sends letters to homeopaths whom it feels breach the advertising code by making “either direct or implied claims” on their websites that homeopathy could actually treat medical conditions. CAP also informs homeopaths that it will conduct “spot checks” on homeopathic marketing material that appears on websites and social media, to ensure that it accords with code. The homeopath must then amend the material in question, otherwise face the wrath of the ASA.

FIGHTING BACK

Many homeopaths have changed the wording on their websites in order to appease CAP/ASA, though the organizations actually have no statutory power. “The ASA’s only real power is the power we choose to ascribe to it,” writes Mont, who encourages homeopaths to contest CAP/ASA, rather than giving into their demands. The latter action, she says, basically gives their position on homeopathy credence. The ASA only has the power to refer illegal and/or dangerous non-compliant advertisers to bona fide authorities, such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Trading Standards. These powerful yet underfunded agencies don’t have the time to go chasing after these trivial, unfounded complaints against homeopaths, especially when only a handful of anti-homeopathy groups generate these complaints in the first place.

CONCLUSION

Section 10-1 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees that people have the right “to receive and impart information… without interference by public authority…”  Practitioners and patients of Homeopathy in the UK have a rough road ahead, but will carry on with confidence in the knowledge that homeopathy works. The sceptics can’t change that.

About the author

Brenda Goldstein

Brenda Goldstein

Brenda Goldstein lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and cat. She is a certified homeopath and homeoprophylaxis supervisor, in addition to being a published writer. Brenda is a frequent contributor to Homeopathy 4 Everyone.

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12 Comments

  • And Section 10-2 of the European Convention on Human Rights points out that “The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of…public health”.

    Hope that clarifies.

  • Selectively quoting the ECHR is misleading. It is an established legal concept that “commercial” speach is subject to subject to restriction. Marketing and advertising is not “free speech” and the definition of marketing is anything that is designed to promote the sale of goods and services. Consumer protection is important. Legislation and regulation is not designed to single out homeopathy for special treatment – it treats all marketing and marketers in the same way.

    UK homeopathy has suffered many blows that are entirely due to the actions and pronouncements of both individual homeopaths and their trade bodies. It is also worth pointing out that the trade bodies have Codes of Ethics that require members to comply with advertising standards. That these trade bodies rarely if ever enforce these Codes is well known.

    The CAP Codes whilst not law in themselves are a reflection of the law. If the ASA rules against particular advertising it is extremely likely that a court would rule against.

    • Using a screen name which implies you are a representative of some agency within the UK government is unethical. You’ve been called out for this on other sites and also on Twitter. You are expressing opinions based on your personal agenda. Those opinions do not reflect the facts either about homeopathy, its practitioners or its trade bodies.

      There are more than 550 million homeopathic patients in the world today. We use homeopathy because it’s safe, effective and curative where conventional treatments fail, and also inexpensive. We recognize your comments as coming from someone who knows nothing about homeopathy and has never used it, someone who is, therefore, not qualified to make any credible statements about it.

      • *cough*

        My agenda is very simple. To provide an interpretation of legislation and regulation that is amenable to the lay reader. Of course, the courts et al are the final arbiters of legislation but that does not invalidate the intrepretation. One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand law, only to carry out certain activities.

        That I sometimes point out potential breaches is beside the point.

        If you wish to point out any factual inaccuracies in any of my statements here or elsewhere, please feel free.

        I have never stated whether I’ve used homeopathy or not. Nor have I stated directly whether I have studied homeopathy or not. My level of knowledge of homeopathy is never explicitly mentioned although I quote a lot of Kent. You assume much lacking evidence.

        The issue of who is qualified to comment on homeopathy is a subject I’ve written on. In short – as the tenets of homeopathy are all in the public domain, pretty much anyone.

        Anyone who has observed the antics of UK homeopathy over the years can point to some spectacular PR blunders.

  • I would think it’s possible to go after these so-called skeptic groups on the grounds of restriction of fair trade, or intent to harm legitimate businesses, or, more accurately, on the grounds that they are the organized form of censorship that they represent. They masquerade as pro-science when, in fact, they are libelers and slanderers. The bottom line is that their intent is malicious and they spread lies, hate, and disinformation about a healing modality that has been proven to benefit millions. The homeopathic community needs to become more politically organized to fight this small band of extremists who believe in depriving others of their freedom of medical choice.

    • I could not agree more wholeheartedly with your comments. The public deserves and has the right to fair and accurate information about homeopathy without the mis- and disinformation spread by the representatives of big pharma.

    • Be aware that your statement is defamatory in itself unless you can provide substantive evidence of your accusations. But I jest.

      It is not “so-called skeptic groups” that restrict what homeopaths and homeopathic medicine vendors can state in their marketing. Legislation does that. Commercial speech is different from “plain” speech and is subject to restriction by consumer protection law. This is a well established concept that has been ruled on in the highest of courts in many jurisdictions. Skeptics do not have the legal power to “censor”, it is regulators and the courts that have those powers. And it is easy to avoid interaction with either as long as commercial activities are kept separate from, say, purely informational ones.

      Depriving others of medical choice? It depends on what kind of jurisdiction you live in. Here in the UK, Common Law works on the assumption that what is not explicitly forbidden is permitted. The Continental System is the reverse – what is not explicitly permitted is forbidden. Hence in the UK anyone can, within reason, offer treatment to someone else whereas in France, unless you are a registered medical practitioner you could face jail.

      Part of the argument in the UK is whether taxpayers should fund homeopathy on the NHS. In itself, the decline in NHS homeopathy does not represent a restriction of freedom of medical choice as there is a large private sector that quite happily provides all manner of treatments. And some insurers are happy to fund homeopathy. There are many treatments that the NHS does not fund, many treatments private insurers won’t fund. Sometimes medical choice is about money. Or going to Mexico.

      The idea of a “homeopathic community” is amusing in some ways. I do remember reading a very nasty discourse where Hindutva Indian homeopaths claimed to able to cure homosexuality and liberal Western lay homeopaths getting very upset about the idea that homosexuality is a dis-ease. The issues faced by homeopaths in different jurisdictions, the question of whether or not they have medical qualifications, different philosophies etc make it difficult to organise on any level but the local and the like-minded.

    • I doubt that UK homeopaths can effectively organise. One of the best examples was the PR screws made running up to the consolidation of the Medicines Act. Various homeopaths made all sorts of erroneous and contradictory statements about a “right” to certain homeopathic medicines that never existed in the first place. Various petitions and letter writing campaigns were engaged in but there was almost a complete failure to grasp that EU Directives that were the result of lobbying by German and French manufacturers are behind the restrictions on supply. These restrictions are still in place. It’s only the indifference of the MHRA and the General Pharmaceutical Council that permits UK lay homeopathy to continue in its current manner.

      https://www.theguardian.com/science/the-lay-scientist/2012/aug/02/1 is well worth reading.

  • Aug 2012 Voice of Good Science in response to Voice of Young Science https://drnancymalik.blogspot.in/
    Lame Duck Quackery Award 2012 awarded to Simon Singh https://drnancymalik.blogspot.in/2012/08/the-lame-duck-award.html
    April 2014 Sense About Medicine in response to Sense About Science April 2014 Sense About Medicine
    ASA provokes, harasses and censor progressive thinking. One can complain to OFCOM. Details at https://twitter.com/i/moments/783653454753337344