A PUBLIC consultation has been launched as part of a review into whether alternative medicine should continue to be funded by the NHS in Lothian.
NHS Lothian spends £240,000 a year providing homeopathy services, despite there being no conclusive scientific evidence to prove it works. And with its funds coming under increasing pressure, the health board is examining whether to cut or eliminate the provision of homeopathic medicine.
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A survey of GPs in Lothian found that the majority of the 168 who responded questioned the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine and did not think that NHS Lothian should pay for it.
Despite this, there were 1573 appointments at NHS Lothian’s homeopathic clinics in Leith, Dalkeith and Livingston in the 2010-11 financial year and a minority of GPs in Lothian said it was of benefit – particularly for those with complex conditions.
Celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Paul McCartney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, the Queen and Prince Charles are reported to have used homeopathy, adding to its popularity.
Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients Association, is convinced it should still be funded by the NHS.
She said: “It certainly doesn’t do any harm, and it can do a lot of good. You don’t have the side-effects you get with some of the hard drugs that are given out to patients. Who are we to say it’s not helping people? All the negativity about homeopathic medicine is unacceptable.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw also backed the spending on homeopathic medicine, which accounts for 0.017 per cent of the total NHS Lothian budget.
Out of 126 general practices in Lothian, 23 refer patients to local homeopathic clinics. Some are referred to Lothian from other areas, although the cost is met by their own health board.
Mr Carlaw said: “Given the running of homeopathic services in the Lothians is relatively cheap, and there are many people in the area who swear they have been helped hugely by it, it would be wise to keep the service going.
“If the Scottish Government can afford to spend tens of millions of pounds parking drug addicts on methadone, it should be able to find the considerably smaller sum to support homeopathy.”
But a spokesperson for the British Medical Association Scotland said: “The BMA believes there should be no further NHS funding for homeopathy.”
The public consultation runs until November 10. To complete the questionnaire visit www.nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk/ourorganisation/consultations/current/homeopathy.
‘Like cures like’
HOMEOPATHY is 200-year-old type of medicine based on the principle that “like cures like”.
It is believed that a substance which causes symptoms if taken in large doses can act as a treatment if taken again in tiny amounts, stimulating the body’s “self-healing mechanisms”.