The Science and Technology Committee is about to decide the fate of homeopathy in the UK. If you live in the UK, please give this your urgent attention – Please don’t forward this, but rather cut and paste the letter below and send it to your MP now – then send it on to friends and family and ask them to do the same. You can find your MP here:
I am writing to you as my Member of Parliament on a matter of urgency regarding the Science and Technology committee Evidence Check into homeopathy. Why the Evidence Check into homeopathy was considered important at this juncture, given all the challenges facing the nation is not clear – that the balance of witnesses called to give evidence was heavily weighted in favour of those against homeopathy there is no doubt, and several of those witnesses had no specialist knowledge of homeopathy at all.
But of grave concern is that the Chair of the Science and Technology Committee Mr Willis stated :
“And also put on record, because there seems to be a little confusion about the nature of the work that we are doing, this is not an inquiry into whether homeopathy works or not. This is an inquiry which follows a series of evidence checks across a number of government departments to see whether in fact there was any evidence to support the Government’s policy towards homeopathy. I want to make that absolutely clear.”
Yet the lines of questioning, by the Chair and in particular by Dr Evan Harris focused entirely on the issue of whether homeopathy works or not, in the narrow world of Random Controlled Trials and meta-analyses. They focused entirely on efficacy in artificial trials, rather than on effectiveness in the real world.
It was further obvious from the disrespect that Dr Harris showed to the pro-homeopathy witnesses that he was interested in only one outcome and his active participation in the recent public 1023 “mass overdose” event, in which he also ridiculed Dr Peter Fisher of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, only served to underscore the fact of his bias.
Given the stated remit of the Science and technology committee – the evidence which should inform government policy must surely be the reports of effectiveness, cost effectiveness and patient satisfaction provided to the committee by the homeopathic hospitals – together with the impressive results of the Department of Health’s Northern Ireland CAM project in 2008. The reports from the hospitals were never discussed as part of the Evidence Check and during the hearing itself, Mike O’Brien, Minister of Health, inexplicably asserted that the Northern Ireland project did not include homeopathy.
The Northern Ireland project most certainly included homeopathy and the GPs who referred their ‘heart sink’ patients for homeopathic treatment were delighted with the results – one interviewed as part of the BBC programme Get Well UK, described the results for her patient as ‘priceless’. Please see references and details below.
Government policy should be informed by the performance of homeopathy in the real world with real patients, and it is seen to perform there extremely well – providing cost effective and successful treatment to tens of thousands of patients who have not been helped by conventional medicine.
The NHS budget for homeopathy comprises just 0.004% of the total NHS budget and the annual bill for homeopathic medicines is just GBP 157,000 per annum. (NHS drugs bill for pharmaceutical products GBP 11 billion.)
NHS homeopathy offers help and hope to tens of thousands of patients at a fraction of the cost of conventional medicine. An estimated 6 million people in the UK have used a homeopathic medicine in the last 12 months. The government should surely be looking at ways to increase its provision of homeopathy, as recommended following the success of the Northern Ireland project, not ways to restrict patient access.
I urge you to contact the Science and Technology Committee and ask why this Evidence Check was conducted in such a biased manner, why the selection of witnesses was so skewed in favour of those speaking against homeopathy and most importantly, why the focus of the hearings and presumably also their forthcoming report, was exactly what the Chair stated on record, that it should not be!
References of homeopathy’s effectiveness in practice:
1. In the Department of Health’s Northern Ireland CAM Pilot study 2008:
Patients receiving homeopathic treatment reported an average 54% improvement in their health and well being, often after long standing conventional treatment had failed. 10 out of 12 GPs surveyed had a more positive view of the potential for CAM within primary care, with all wishing to continue with the option of referring their patients to CAM. In 99% of patient cases, the GP said that they would be willing to refer the same patient, or another patient, to the Get Well UK service. In 98% of patient cases, the GP said they would be willing to recommend the service to another GP. Evaluation of a CAM Pilot Project in Northern Ireland (2008) D McDade2008
2. Observational study Bristol Homeopathic Hospital. Over 23,000 patient attendances in a 6-year period, 70% of patients reported improved health, 50% major improvement of wide range of conditions.
Spence DS, Thompson EA, Barron SJ (2005). Homeopathic treatment for chronic disease: a 6-year university-hospital outpatient observational study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11:793-798.
3. 500-patient survey at the RLHH showed many patients were able to reduce or stop conventional medication following homeopathic treatment.
Sharples F, van Haselen R, Fisher P (2003). NHS patients’ perspective on complementary medicine: a survey. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 11:243-248
4. Pilot study published 2008. 1602 follow-up patient appointments for 235 separate medical complaints at all five NHS homeopathic hospitals collected together over one-month period.. Many patients had multiple pathologies. 34% of patients reported an improvement that affected their daily living after 2 appointments. After six appointments 59% reported improvement.
Thompson EA, et al (2008). Towards standard setting for patient-reported outcomes in the NHS homeopathic hospitals. Homeopathy, 97:114-121.
5. Outcome survey at the Liverpool department of homeopathic medicine over a 12 month period in 1999-2000.
1100 patients; 76.6% reported an improvement and 60.3% reported major improvement. 52% of 814 patients taking conventional treatment were able to reduce or stop conventional medication.
Richardson WR.(2001) Patient benefit survey: Liverpool Regional Department of Homeopathic medicine. British Homeopathic Journal 90 158-162.
6. Homeopathy and acupuncture backed for NHS funding. Pulse magazine for GPs
Pulse.co.uk 17 Feb 2009