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.
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.
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.
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.
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.