Can You Dish Out Sugar Pills for £50,000?

NHS Jobs

The University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is looking for a grade 8b pharmacist to dish out sugar pills at the The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (formerly known as the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital before it all got a bit too embarrassing.)

At a time when the NHS is under increasing financial and organisational pressure, the RLHIM thinks it is acceptable to pay someone to dispense homeopathic sugar pills.

At grade 8b, this would be a highly experienced and qualified pharmacist with post-graduate qualifications. Whereas in reality, all you need to do to dispense homeopathy pills is to be able to scoop sugar pills out of a tub and into a bottle, print out a label with a spell on it, hand over to the ‘patient’ and try to keep a straight face.

Even in Glasgow, the last stronghold of NHS homeopathy, the hospital has seen fit to close down its homeopathic dispensary.

According to the job description, the requirement for a postgraduate qualification is relaxed in favour of someone who has a qualification in ‘Integrated Medicine’, whatever that is. (Also, interesting to see reviewers note on this suggesting it be put in!)

Integrated medicine is of course a weasely term for the integration of superstitious and pseudoscientific nonsense into health care.

As career opportunities in the strangled NHS might be difficult, such a role might be tempting. But these are dangerous waters to be entering.

The dispensing of the vast majority of homeopathic remedies is likely to become quite difficult soon. Whilst a pharmacist will have rights to dispense remedies as they see fit, the supply of such remedies may become difficult as the largest market is with lay homeopaths – the medically untrained version of the homeopath you find on the High Street. It is illegal for such homeopaths to dispense unlicensed remedies, and due to the consolidation of the Medicine’s Act that will come into force in the next few weeks, the landscape is likely to change enormously as they will not be able to buy remedies from suppliers legally.

Due to a hugely misconceived and muddled campaign by homeopaths to try to get the law changed, it is now obvious to all that homeopaths are operating illegally when they dispense unlicensed pills. Since only a few of their pills have licenses, it is likely the homeopathic pharmacies will collapse when he regulations change and enforcement is called for. Lay homeopathy is in desperate straights.

And when the bulk of retail homeopathy disappears, the newly appointed pharmacist at the RLHIM may have trouble sourcing the giant tub of sugar pills they need to earn their £50K. Of course, they could make their own remedies, but where are they going to source their own ‘dolphin sonar, ‘light from venus’ and ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’?

So concerned are medical homeopaths about the impact of the consolidated legislation that they too are calling for all patients and supporters to write to their MPs.

For interested job applicants, I would suggest they keep a good eye on the new blog, Malleus Homeopathicum. You will not find a better appraisal of the law on homeopathic remedies and the impact of the regulation consolidation and the sorry state of the campaign to subvert it.

26 Comments on Can You Dish Out Sugar Pills for £50,000?

  1. Formally known!? Surely you mean formerly known… I’d feel quite a bit let down if a trusted sceptic such as you woudn’t spellcheck his texts.

    • And “desperate straights”, and “Medicine’s Act” (and other apostrophe abuses) etc. etc.

      Annoying to pedants like you and me but at least we know what the intended meaning was. Right?

  2. Formerly it was formally known as the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. Informally it is still known as Woomonger Central.

    • Formerly it was formally known as the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.

      Please note, there already is a Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.Has been for centuries.

      So, now we have two Royal London Hospitals. One is for “Medicine” (it does not make that claim, as it is self evident).

      The other is for also for medicine, but for that which is that is “Integrated”.

      The term “Integrated ” is not defined. The government, Medical Royal Colleges, BMA etc. use the term regularly to describe the integration of medical, clinical, nursing, psychiatric, mental, public health and social care. Good policies.

      For what reason would UCH use or allow use of the name of another famous London Hospital, combined with a misleading term which is not defined, unless this was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public? And political paymasters?

      Surely the doctors and managers of the RLH at UCH cannot be intending to deceive and defraud patients? So what are they up to?

      Do the non-executive directors of UCH know? Or care? What steps have they taken to hold those responsible for the RLH at their hospital to account?

      This is becoming sureal. Some will say…always was.

      NHS Patients deserve better. So do tax payers.

      • Yup. I did my PhD at Barts & The (Royal) London. I’d like a pound for every pint I’ve drunk in Good Sam’s and the Blind Beggar. Fine institutions all.

  3. The RLHIM’s pharmacy has a retail component…

    “he RLHIM pharmacy is a registered retail pharmacy selling a wide range of products including homeopathic remedies, herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, books, natural and organic skin care products. The retail service is open to the general public Monday to Friday between 9am and 5.30pm.

    As part of the retail service our qualified pharmacists are able to provide excellent professional advice on using complementary medicines for minor ailments.”

    That’ll be fun because their professional advice should be in many cases “go and see your GP” and “there is no evidence that homeopathy works”.

  4. Have UCH and NHS been notified of your views, which I fully support? Have they replied? Who pays the £50k – the taxpayer (me)?
    They must have better uses for OUR money!

  5. Don’t throw out alternative medicine together with homeopathy!

    “Alternative” includes herbal medicine, movement therapy, massage, and so on, which all have their place, plus research-based evidence behind them.

    And as much as I agree that there is no scientific basis for homeopathy, the practice of homeopathy at least includes lifestyle advice and compassion – both sorely missing in conventional medicine.

    We need both: The sound foundation of scientific medicine, and the gentle measures and kind nudging of patients into better habits of the alternative medicine.

    And be sure – there are quacks on both sides of the aisle …

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D., physician, author.

    • And as much as I agree that there is no scientific basis for homeopathy, the practice of homeopathy at least includes lifestyle advice and compassion – both sorely missing in conventional medicine.

      Wrong on both counts.

      Homoeopathy is the exemplar of “a pill for every ill”. Remember, for example, that when the BBC investigated homoeopaths giving advice on malaria prevention a few years back, as well as the offering of sugar pills, there was to quote this article, “a near total failure to mention the importance of using suitable bed nets and other ways to avoid mosquito bites in malarial areas”. This is basic, essential, lifestyle advice. As that article points out, it is also “holistic”.

      By contrast, my doctors are continually giving me lifestyle advance. I have been advised to eat more healthily, drink less, exercise more. They also cultivate something known, I believe, as “bedside manner”, which basically involves using compassion. We don’t need quackery for them to do this.

    • “Alternative” includes herbal medicine, movement therapy, massage, and so on, which all have their place, plus research-based evidence behind them.

      If they have good evidence behind them, they are just “medicine”.

      • A homeopaths extensively and frequently advise against vaccination.

        They do not do this because they are “holistic”. They do this because they are knobs.

    • ….and I return to point out, as always, that there’s nothing “compassionate” about homeopathy, which advocates pig embryos, lizards, bird parts and a host of other thoroughly non-compassionate ingredients (not that they wind up as ingredients, we know, but it’s too late for the pigs) in its nostrums.

  6. The job description document has been marked up.

    Under ‘Knowledge & Qualifications’ is the essential requirement of:

    Diploma/MSc in Clinical Pharmacy or equivalent specialist qualification in integrated medicine

    A reviewer (r1) has annotated this with:

    There is a special integrated meddcine qualification that the pharmacist have – should probably put this in. [sic]

    A special qualification in integrated medicine? I dread the think…

  7. I think I might apply for this.

    I don’t have any medical skills but I can bring 25+ years of commercial experience to the role.

    My innovative business plan will focus on reducing the amount of capital tied up in inventory.

    Instead of having rows of different quack remedies I plan to consolidate inventory down to:

    1. A huge box of lactose pills
    2. A huge box of pill bottles
    3. A Word VBA application for printing sciencely looking labels full of dire warnings about overdosing.

    The worried well and TATT Syndromers can spend as long as they like talking to me. The pills will be priced according to how long they feel the need to chat for. My bedside manner is impeccable and I can easily recoup my salary. I can dispense sound medical advice with the pills (this will consist mostly of saying “If you are genuinely ill go and see your bleeding doctor”).

    Orac recently mocked naturopaths who claim that sugarpillery is too complex to understand and requires a 2 hour consultation in order to prescribe the correct combination of pills – having done this they do not then see the client again, or at least not for months. As such they cannot make enough money out of it. (I am not making this up and Orac does his usual hatchet job on The Stupid behind this whinge.)

    My approach will do away with this nonsense.

    I can reduce capital investment, increase revenue and ensure customer satisfaction. Infallible.

    Where do I apply.

  8. Aside from the obvious shock that they are recruiting into such a post at a time when ALL NHS trusts are being forced to make efficiency savings to the tune of millions that, in some cases, mean redundancy, it does rather denigrate the highly banded clinical pharmacists out there, most of whom at 8b will have achieved the MSc and many of whom will have or be working towards a PhD or DPharm. To most lay people, a pharmacist is a dispenser of tablets according to the doctors instructions. In a hospital however, they are so much more.

    How could a qualification in ‘Integrated Medicine’, which I will assume to mean woo as they haven’t bothered to specify, ever be equivalent? How can the clinical or management responsibilities compare? They will oversee just 8 pharmacy staff in the RLHIM.

    Of course, the other issue is the internal vacancy management procedure. It does not reflect well on the Trust that this post got approved financially at all, but it’s doubly embarassing that it got advertised with an incomplete JD including reviewers comments and WITHOUT the boxes marked that show how the various criteria will be tested upon application (I for interview etc.).

    Saddened for pharmacy, saddened for the NHS, saddened for human resources. Mortified for UCLH.

    Staff of UCLH: If your department has been forced to make efficiency savings this year I’d be very, very cross to read this.

  9. from the job description:

    “The lead pharmacist will act as a role model in the field of complementary medicines…”

    lets hope the lead pharmacist acts a role model for lead pharmacists first and foremost when it comes to complemenatry medicines by assuring that customers are given the correct information rather than the towing party line of the homeopathic community and their sponsors.

    • Joining the pedants at the top of the page I feel it necessary to point out that you cannot ‘tow’ a line*. The homophone you want is ‘toe’ iow to stand such that your toes are just behind the line showing full and accurate compliance.

      Anyway it is good to see the EU change the rules and shut down amateur homeopaths. Criminal sanctions couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of charlatans and deluded people.

      • The EU hasn’t shut down homeopathy – just enforced the directive stating that their flavours of sugarpills need to be registered with the competent agencies of the country they work in. We’ve had this in Sweden since 1992, and more-or-less enforced since 2006, but sadly it hasn’t affected the activities of the few Swedish homeopaths (all of the lay-kind) around. Although no pharmacies stock homeopathics (yet…), the homeopaths are aloud to sell them after consultation. There is about 2300 homeopathic preparations registered in Sweden. But there is a problem of actually knowing what they peddle, eventhough it is illegal to import and sell non-registered products there is no inspections of homeopathy “clinics” looking at their practices.

      • I believe that there are a number of anthroposophic doctors in Sweden and the ruling that doctors could prescribe homeopathic medicines is down to their actions?

        Are there really 2300 homeopathic medicines registered in Sweden? I can’t seem to find very many on the Läkemedelsverket medicines search facility.

      • The number of registered homeopathic medicines in Sweden is (per 2012-03-28) 2263 – however, this number includes many identical preparations from different suppliers but not the number of dilutions available for simple remedies (only the “weakest” need to be registered, further dilutions is automatically deemed “safe”). This is just how they are counted, just as all the different brands of 500 mg paracetamol will be counted as individual approved drugs.
        A reason that homeopathy hasn’t been especially big in Sweden might be that you can’t advertise them in any way as it is illegal to put any indication on the packaging. The registration process do not evaluate any claims about efficacy (quite naturally as you can’t claim anything for the product and must label it as “Homeopathic remedy without any indication”).
        As far as I am aware the anthroposophic doctors have very little to do with the regulatory situation of homeopathy in Sweden. They are in fact currently under the same kind of attack as British homeopaths – they have to get their medications registered or approved to continue using them. Last check only two preparation had been able to pass the bar as registered traditional herbal remedies…
        The legal situation for homeopaths and the use of homeopathic drugs is a bit dodgy in Sweden – the law restricts some medical practices (eg. treatment of children under the age of 8, pregnant women, cancer and some infections – such as HIV, diabetes, epilepsi; using injections, hypnosis, narcosis or radiation) to licensed practitioners (eg. physicians, nurses, pharmacists, etc. but not homeopaths) under the control of the National Board of Health and Welfare. These practitioners should practice according to scientific and evidence-based standards. However, there is no real provision to stop them unless there is an obvious risk to patient welfare. This is the reason why a physician recently got acquitted in court and the censoring and allegation from the NBHWs of unscientific practice due to use of homeopathy was rejected. As the patients received “normal” care alongside the homeopathy, and no risk thus could be attributed to the practice the NBHWs decision to sanction the physician was ruled unlawful. (My translation of the Swedish “legalese” might distort the meaning in the verdict – if so I apologize.)

  10. I am afaid that you will never get rid of homeopathy because it seems to have become a religion, and attacks on it are perceived by the faithful to be a sort of blasphemy, to be strongly resisted and denied. This is why they will not take up your challenge.
    And how would you define a religion? The essential components required are:
    1. One or more prophets. Samuel Hahnemann, William Boericke and others.
    2. Divine Law. Hahnemann’s “The Law of Similars”.
    3. Holy writ. His “Organon der rationelle Heilkunde”, and “Materia Medica Para”.
    4. Temples. Like The Royal London Hospital of Integrated Medicine.
    5. Priests. Homeopathic practitioners.
    6. Ceremonies. The lengthy consulations.
    7. The Collection. All religions seem to require the faithful to donate large sums, in this one it is the large fees for sugar pills.

    It may fade away in the far off future with elightened education.

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