The Myths of NHS Homeopathy

 image for id L0028305MP David Tredinnick has tabled an Early Day Motion for MPs to sign in support of The Homeopathic Research Institutes campaign to promote more research into homeopathy.

I have already spelled out in some detail why such research would be deeply unethical: firstly, we already know with a very high degree of certainty that homeopathy is a superstitious form of medical treatment that is completely ineffective; and secondly, research is supposed to help inform treatment choices – and homeopaths have never changed their approach as a result of any clinical research – and more research is unlikely to make them start incorporating evidence into their belief system.

The full text if his EDM is as follows:

That this House welcomes the campaign by the Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI) to place homeopathy research on the national agenda as a credible scientific field of inquiry; notes that the HRI is an innovative charity that does not promote the practice of homeopathy itself, but rather promotes and facilitates scientific research into homeopathy,of which the most controversial aspect is the use of highly diluted medicines; acknowledges that, in the UK, the practice of homeopathy has been part of the National Health Service (NHS) since its inception, and since that time homeopathic medicines have been prescribable to patients; observes that the Faculty of Homeopathy Act 1950 states that the public has access to homeopathy under the NHS so long as patients demand it and doctors are trained to provide it; and calls on the Government to facilitate research into this important area to ascertain the effectiveness of homeopathy.

Tredinnick asserts a common myth in the homeopathic world that somehow the NHS has a duty to provide homeopathic services as part of its incorporation. Tredinnick explicitly states that the Faculty of Homeopathy Act 1950 explicitly has requirements in it to ensure that that the NHS provides for public demand.

Except that this is simply not true.

Liberal democrat MP Julian Huppert has written a much needed amendment to this misleading EDM as follows:

leave out from `House’ to end and add `notes that organisations such as the Homeopathy Research Institute are free to conduct their own scientific studies, if in accordance with ethical frameworks, but that they should be performed rigorously and avoid poor statistics, confirmation bias and other flaws that have plagued some studies; agrees with the conclusions of the Science and Technology Select Committee’s Fourth Report of Session 2009-10, Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy, HC 45, that putting patients through pointless further clinical trials, and the spending of scarce public sector funds on research into homeopathy cannot be justified; observes that the Faculty of Homeopathy Act 1950 does not state that “the public has access to homeopathy under the NHS so long as patients demand it and doctors are trained to provide it”, but highlights that documents from the Faculty must specifically carry a disclaimer that they do not provide a legal qualification to practice homeopathy and is not sanctioned by Government; further notes that millions of pounds each year of NHS resources are spent on homeopathic treatments that have no evidence of clinical effect; and accepts that people are entitled to spend their own money as they see fit, but calls on the Government to stop funding homeopathic treatments and hospitals using public funds.’.

Huppert is quite right. The Faculty of Homeopathy Act 1950 is a dreadfully dull document that describes what the Faculty should do and what sorts of committees and structures it should take.

The act is quite explicit in ensuring that the any diploma issued by the Faculty has no authority beyond that of the Faculty itself,

Provided that every diploma certificate or other recognition granted independently by the Faculty shall contain on the face of it a statement to the effect that it does not of itself confer or purport to confer any legal qualification to practise homoeopathy and that it is not issued under or in pursuance or by virtue of any government sanction or authority but that it is issued by the authority of the Faculty only;

There is no mention in the Act of any requirement for the NHS to meet any demand for homeopathy. It is a figment of homeopaths’ sense of entitlement.

It is absurd to think that any sort of medical treatment has an automatic right to be provisioned in a public health service, especially by statute. Treatments should be judged on the merits of the evidence to support what they claim to do. For homeopathy, we know it is just the theatrical prescription of sugar pills.

I would suggest you ask your MP to make sure they sign Huppert’s amendment and ensure they do not put their name to the ‘idiot list’ that this EDM surely is.

You can do so easily here: http://www.writetothem.com

UPDATE 25/05/11

It looks as if David Tredinnick has now pulled this EDM.

So, for the record, here is a list of all the MPs who thought long and hard about this and put their names to this piece of idiocy:

David Tredinnick 17/05/2011 Bosworth Conservative Proposed
Robert Halfon 18/05/2011 Harlow Conservative Seconded
Frank Dobson 18/05/2011 Holborn & St Pancras Labour Seconded
Brian Binley 18/05/2011 Northampton South Conservative Seconded
Alan Meale 18/05/2011 Mansfield Labour Seconded
John Pugh 18/05/2011 Southport Liberal Democrat Seconded
Ronnie Campbell 18/05/2011 Blyth Valley Labour Signed
Jeremy Corbyn 19/05/2011 Islington North Labour Signed
Andrew Stephenson 19/05/2011 Pendle Conservative Signed
Graham Evans 19/05/2011 Weaver Vale Conservative Signed
Andrew George 23/05/2011 St Ives Liberal Democrat Signed
Mike Hancock 23/05/2011 Portsmouth South Liberal Democrat Signed
Valerie Vaz 23/05/2011 Walsall South Labour Signed
Well done, all of you.

48 Comments on The Myths of NHS Homeopathy

  1. My MP (Ronnie Campbell) is one of the signatories of the EDM. I have emailed him expressing my concern and am awaiting his reply. I urge others to contact their MPs and let them know of their feelings.

  2. luckerly for me julian Hubbert is my MP. so all i can is write his a congratulatory letter for standing up to such nonsense..once again.

  3. Amen.

    His amendment is well written, and demonstrates an understanding for experimentation and statistics.

    Oh how I wish more MPs were like that….

  4. I have contacted my MP and asked him to support the amendment. And I’ve asked him to give me his views on homeopathy (which I should have done ages ago!).

  5. I’m particularly saddened by Frank Dobson.

    I always thought of him as a humane rationalist since I heard him dealing with a bishops support for the blasphemy laws on the Today program years ago.

    He signed the pro MMR EDM after the Jeni Barnett LBC radio debacle a couple of years ago, so he can’t be totally committed to the SCAM world. He has signed other pro hpthy EDMs previously though. I wonder if he has his own “it worked for me” anecdote clouding his reason.

  6. The Faculty of Homeopathy Act 1950 is a dreadfully dull document that describes what the Faculty should do and what sorts of committees and structures it should take.

    Not surprising that it relates entirely to the FoH, since it is a local act rather than a public general act.

  7. It looks as if the commitment was made in a speech. The phrase I keep finding on hmoeopathic websites is “homeopathic institutions will be enabled to provide their own form of treatment and that the continuity of the characteristics of those institutions will be maintained”, generally presented as if it is a quotation from Bevan, for example here:

    Homeopathy was included in the original vision for the NHS by its founder, the then Minister for Health Aneurin Bevan. He promised that: “homeopathic institutions will be enabled to provide their own form of treatment and that the continuity of the characteristics of those institutions will be maintained”.

    I think I’ve found the origin of this particular phrase though. Here is is as reported in Hansard:

    The Secretary of the Faculty [of homeopathy] also said: “The Faculty of Homoeopathy is under an obligation by Act of Parliament to do everything in its power to advance the principles and extend the practice of homoeopathy and the Minister of Health has given assurances that under the National Health Service Act homoeopathic institutions will be enabled to provide their own form of treatment and that the continuity of the characteristics of those institutions will be maintained.”

    It does look, from the same source, as if Bevan made some sort of commitment in a speech made on 23rd November 1946. The statement doens’t seem to have been made in Parliament (23rd Nov 1946 was a Saturday), and certainly can’t have been made in the debates on the bill because the act received royal assent on 6th Nov 1946. I can’t find any mention of homoeopathy by Bevan in Hansard in the 1940s, and precious few mentions of it by anyone in that period.

    • Actually the Faculty of Homoeopathy Act 1950 *does* contain the following phrase: “And whereas the Minister of Health has given assurances that under the National Health Service Act 1946 homoeopathic institutions will be enabled to provide their own form of treatment and that the continuity of the characteristics of those institutions will be maintained”.

      However, this phase is not in the operative parts of the Act (the bits that have legal effect), but in the preamble, which recites the relevant facts that form the background to the Act.

      Without digging further into the background, it would appear that the Minister gave this assurance when taking the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital into the NHS under the 1946 Act (ie., after that Act was passed). Presumably the homoeopaths at the time wanted such an assurance, or they would have stayed private.

      But the 1950 Act itself does not require the NHS to provide homoeopathy, nor do the Acts currently consituting the NHS. An informed guess would be that the NHS would be able to stop providing homeopathy, providing that it offered the Royal London (and other homoeopathic institutions) back to the faculty of homoeopaths.

      • So that’s where the quotation comes from. My mistake – I didn’t have the preamble of the FoH act to hand, and couldn’t find its text on the internet. Thanks Nick.

        I’m not sure whether an “assurance” from a minister would carry any actual legal force. There certainly doesn’t seem to be anything stopping NHS homeopathic hospitals closing, for example the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital was closed a couple of years back.

  8. I also wrote to my MP, who has replied as follows:

    “I am aware that there are differing views on the provision of homeopathic remedies, with some arguing that there is not enough evidence to support their availability via the NHS, while others argue that greater access to complementary therapies in the NHS might lead to widespread benefits”.

    Sitting firmly on the fence, then. Shame he seems unaware of the report of the Science and Technology Committee to the last parliament!

    At least, by virtue of his having a role in government, he is unable to sign any EDMs…

  9. Hey you Anglo-Skeptics; I live in the US and here homeopathy is covered by no insurance. I’d still rather pay for the homeopathy out of pocket than get the free garbage allopathy.
    You’ll never succeed in killing homeopathy; you’ll do some damage for sure but you can’t suppress what is good and true.

    • @Canard Blanc
      If you opt to pay for something that doesn’t work that’s your choice. Here in the UK I don’t want to be forced to pay for something that doesn’t work. That’s why I and others are opposing this campaign.

    • And while you live in a wealthy country with good sanitation, you will probably not suffer dangerous consequences of your foolishness for a long time. Fortunately we do not often suffer life-threatening illness that would punish a misplaced faith in magic pills.

      Let us know when you acquire a bad disease.

    • It does, however, warrant saying that your advocacy of magic pills does have fatal consequences for that percentage of the population that is suffering from serious disease at any given time and who maintain their stupid beliefs. Welcome, Blanc, to the world of Penelope Dingle.

      And do not also forget the poor Africans dying for the self-aggrandisement of stupid rich people who con them into thinking magic sugar prevents malaria.

    • Hey Canard Blanc; You’re right – “allopathy”, as Hahnemann termed the mainstream medicine of his day, was garbage. However, when over the course of the 19th century it was discovered to be garbage we stopped using it. Enthusiasts for homoeopathy seem unable to learn the same lesson.

  10. In homeopathic terms anything diluted 30C not only retains, but increases it effectiveness. If completely true, then it follows that a pain medication must also behave similarly if taken to 30C.
    I wonder how much a believer in homeopathy would be willing to take 30C morphine for relief of an acute pain? Would they believe the addictiveness would increase similarly? This does not follow from homeopathy’s like cures like premise.

    In the last 50 years I am almost certain that someone, somewhere has made 30C vaccines and tried them. Not necessarily on consenting people, however. Is there any literature on this? This does meet the basic premise in that a vaccine does create a miniature disease state, so like cures like. What a dreadful thought that possibly someone may have ever used a diluted vaccine in such a misguided way.

  11. JimR said

    In homeopathic terms anything diluted 30C not only retains, but increases it effectiveness. If completely true, then it follows that a pain medication must also behave similarly if taken to 30C.
    I wonder how much a believer in homeopathy would be willing to take 30C morphine for relief of an acute pain? Would they believe the addictiveness would increase similarly? This does not follow from homeopathy’s like cures like premise.

    Good point. Hahnemann didn’t invent homeopathy as a complete system. He dreamed up the like cures like bit first and then much later invented the dilutions nonsense. So this raises the question about why the dilutions nonsense only applies to the substances homeopaths claim it to work with and why it doesn’t apply to, say, morphine. Homeopaths will have no coherent answer to this, of course.

  12. I am sure that once homeopathy is not reimbursed by the NHS, you’ll find something else to complain about.
    I know this all makes no sense to you and you think we, the believers of homeopathy ate crazy, but it works BECAUSE there is no substance in it, not in spite of it.
    As far as the allopathy, I would definitely use it for anything urgent that homeopathy couldn’t cure fast enough.
    That is by the way what Hahnemann recommends.
    Also u go to a homeopath that thinks that allopathy should be used for certain conditions sickbed aids and that homeopathy is ineffective against it.

    • “…… it works BECAUSE there is no substance in it ……”

      This is wrong on so many levels, but chiefly because homeopathy has never been shown to work.

  13. Blanc

    “As far as the allopathy, I would definitely use it for anything urgent that homeopathy couldn’t cure fast enough.”

    So, Penelope Dingle’s slow lingering death from cancer was just too speedy for homeopathy to help with. I am glad you cleared that up.

    Ditto, Gloria Thomas.

    It’s a very special type of medicine that only works when it doesn’t matter whether it works or not and works in a manner indistinguishable from doing nothing.

  14. “So, Penelope Dingle’s slow lingering death from cancer was just too speedy for homeopathy to help with. I am glad you cleared that up.”

    Like no one treated with allopathy ever died from cancer?

    “This is wrong on so many levels”

    Sorry I can’t think for you. If you want to understand it, you’ll have to work a little harder.

    • Blanc, if you have a cancerous tumour, would you elect surgery or homeopathy for a resectable mass?

      I’m not offering you “and”. Penelope Dingle made her choice of one not the other. What would you do?

    • Photos of its hideously inexorable growth would be instructive to all.

      On the other hand, fortunately, few people actually sustain their magical beliefs in the face of serious diseases. You still have time to gain a proper sense of self-preservation.

  15. P.S. Following LCN’s links to twitter, I see that even the uber-idiot Dana Ullman can’t quite bring himself to support homeopathy as treatment for HIV instead of anti-retrovirals.

    It seems idiocy has narrower limits than venality.

  16. I asked my homeopath whether homeopathy could do anything against HIV/AIDS and he said absolutely not; one had to use allopathy and that those who pretended they could were liars.

    • What is your homeopath doing within his circle of homeopathic organisations to confront this false belief?

      But also, homeopathy claims to be a complete system of medicine. Why does it suddenly cease to work when confronted by AIDS? If homeopathy works, what principle exists to draw hard lines around what it can treat and what it can’t. You claim it cures cancer and you would even choose it instead of surgery for readily resectable tumours.

  17. I’ll answer what he told me to the question you are asking.
    I am not a homeopath myself.
    He said that homeopathy was not able to cure certain auto-immune diseases.
    Because homeopathy acts by stimulating the immune system.
    Now don’t ask me to explain how, I know there’s no chemical compound in it.
    As far as being a system of medicine, sure it has it’s limits and so do all other systems of medicine.
    I know doctors who consult homeopaths and vice versa.

    • Well that’s just a blend of bullshit and bollocks.

      HIV is a virus, not an autoimmune disease.

      AIDS, by definition, is a state of immune suppression.

      And, anyway, where would your homeopath have found the evidence to support this weird assertion. I would point out in passing that weary often find that homeopaths don’t even understand the rules of their own game and hold internally contradictory opinions and opinions that flatly contradict their colleagues’.

      This should really tell you that your homeopath is just making this stuff up on the fly. You don’t seem to see this and, by implication, would seek their help alone if you developed a tumour.

      Astonishing!

      • HIV is a virus and AIDS is an auto immune disease.
        Is that right?
        For the rest of your post, I do not understand what you’re trying to say except that homeopaths are charlatans and the people seeking their help idiots.
        Is that all you’re trying to say?

      • Your ignorance is showing CB. Just where did BSM say AIDS was an auto immune disease?

        Are you one of those AIDS denialists too?

  18. Blanc

    HIV is a virus and AIDS is an auto immune disease.
    Is that right?

    Wrong. But that’s not the point at issue. Your homeopath has asserted that homeopathy cannot treat AIDS, which flatly contradicts a load of other homeopaths, yet seems to permit you to labour under the delusion that if you had an operable tumour, you should decline surgery in favour of magicked sugar. You have not answered where your homeopath gets the evidence for this.

    For the rest of your post, I do not understand what you’re trying to say except that homeopaths are charlatans and the people seeking their help idiots.
    Is that all you’re trying to say?

    It’s not all I’m trying to say, but it is an observable fact.

    Meanwhile, I return to the other observable fact that given a tricky question we have a homeopathy believer engaging in misdirection rather than making a candid attempt to reply.

  19. Well done Glasgow. Yer doin’ areet d’yer ken?

    All these people rabbittin’ on abaht ohmeopafy don’t even know ‘ow ter properly spell the bleed’n word in English do they? Ar suppose they’re scared o’ bein’ labelled somefink else if they get anywhere near the homo word.

    Why can’t these Berks that run the country and the NHS get real? If the quack (that’s ter say in its colloqyal slang form and not as a deerogertory statement abaht all doctors) finks that a payshent is sufferin’ from somefink that a good night’s sleep and garglin’ wiv warm salty water will cuer, but who ‘e knows wants a pill and so needs placeybows, let ‘im give ‘em some. If ‘e finks the patient needs proper medicine, let ‘im give it to ‘em.

    There ‘as ter be a way in this age of Nano-everyfink, ter make a pill that’s got a bit of every ohmeopaffic medicine that was ever made from Arse-nicum bromupem ter Zingiber orrificinale which can be taken by marf or up the – sorry! – as a supposeitery.
    That’d give it all to the gullybull patients in one go ‘n save the NHS millions wouldn’t it?
    Yours fatefully,

    Illitilligit. (Sasserknackered)

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