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Homeopathy prescribing set to be blacklisted under NHS England plans

NHS England has said it is going to 'formally request' that the Government ban GPs from prescribing homeopathy.

In 2017, NHS England published guidance to stop prescriptions for 18 low clinical priority treatments including homeopathy given the lack of 'clear or robust evidence'.

In addition to existing guidelines, NHS England has now said it will 'formally' request the Department of Heath and Social Care (DHSC) to blacklist homeopathy to make sure available funding is better used.

If the DHSC go along with NHS England's recommendation, then homeopathy would no longer legally be prescribed in primary care settings. 

An NHS England spokesperson said: 'The NHS has issued guidance making it clear to GPs that homeopathy should not be prescribed, and to give further legal force to this we will now be formally requesting that the Department of Health blacklist it so that funds cannot be wasted in this way.'

A DH spokesperson said: 'We expect GPs to prescribe treatments for the clinical benefit of their patients. In line with the clinical evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy, NHS England issued guidance to prescribers on the use of various items of low clinical value, which has resulted in a decline of homeopathic prescribing in primary care of 52%.

'We will consider NHS England’s request and respond in due course but we would expect doctors to be following these guidelines already.'

GPC clinical policy lead Dr Andrew Green previously called on the Government to ban over-the-counter or low-value medicines, rather than having guidance alone, as this would be ‘wholly inadequate’ and could put GPs at risk of breaching their contracts.

There is already a blacklist of drugs that GPs may not prescribe, which appears under Schedule 1 of the 2004 GMS contract.

The list, which includes drugs that experts agreed had no clinical or therapeutic advantage over other cheaper drugs, was first set up in 1985 and no new items have been added since 2004.

Last year, the High Court rejected a legal challenge brought in by the British Homeopathic Association to overturn NHS England plans to no longer routinely fund homeopathy.

NHS England welcomed the court victory, with chief executive Simon Stevens calling the legal challenge ‘costly and spurious’ and stating that homeopathy is a ‘misuse of scarce NHS funds’.

This came after research found that over 2,700 homeopathy prescriptions were issued by GP practices between December 2016 and May 2017, costing a total of £36,532.

Meanwhile, researchers revealed that GPs are writing one million fewer prescriptions for low-priority treatments but that price hikes have led to a rise in the overall spending.

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Readers' comments (26)

  • Hallelujah!

    Long overdue

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  • David Banner

    Finally NHSE have the courage to blacklist sterile water on prescription.
    So if you want us to cut out all the OTC drugs, front up and blacklist them too, and stop passing the blame (sorry, “issuing guidance “) to GPs

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  • About time. I always thought anyone prescribing homeopathy should be stripped of their licence if they didn't realise the stupidity of their position after retraining. Quackery does our profession a disservice.

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  • Apart from homeopathy there is an amazing list of drugs banned from prescribing on this list, e.g.:

    Cabdrivers Diabetic Linctus
    Do-Do Tablets
    Dove Cleansing Bar
    Dr Brandreth’s Pills
    Dr D E Jongh’s Cod Liver Oil with Malt Extract & Vitamins Fortified Syrup
    Dr William’s Pink Pills
    Dragon Balm

    Which GP in the history of the universe has ever prescribed these products?

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  • The GMC is quite clear about respecting colleagues, and about patients' informed consent, so when colleagues consider a particular treatment appropriate it behoves us to be respectful- you do realise the NHS spends £266 million a year on SSRI's which are research proven placebo equivalents in mild and moderate depression? At least homeopathic drugs are safe and cost-effective. Do respect your colleagues.

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  • |Do good | GP Partner/Principal|10 Apr 2019 9:26am

    1. You're just about the only person that takes the GMC seriously still.
    2. Snake oil salesmen are not our 'colleagues'.
    3. 'cost-effective'? for a placebo effect? You might be happy for your taxes to be frittered away as such, but not everyone is. Hey I'm against extensive prescribing of SSRIs too.
    4. If a patient with 'informed consent' wants to try something 'unproven', they can pay for it.

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  • Hold on Chris- If prescribing SSRIs for mild and moderate depression makes me a snake oil salesman, am I still your colleague? What are your intentions here?

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  • Easy, to reduce the size of state and taxpayer spending in general, and in healthcare, starting with anything non-medical, unproven, non-essential etc. The evidence for homeopathy is that its quackery. If the evidence for SSRIs is that poor, let the individual/free market decide if they want to spend on it. Also, there's no point trying to lump SSRIs and homeopathy together. There are guidelines for SSRIs, whilst currently, NICE doesn't recommend that homeopathy be used in the treatment of any health condition.

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  • Also, about respect. I'm pretty old-school in some sense in that I believe respect is earned. I certainly can't be commanded or compelled to respect others, it is voluntarily given. You would like to assume that your fellow doctors have earned that too, but surely you can think of many circumstances when that's not always the case. It comes down to definitions really. If what you mean by respect is 'treating someone with dignity', sure but that doesn't absolve them from criticism of their ideas.

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  • Completely agree with and endorse the views of Do good. The vile authoritarian views also expressed here are disappointing. Homeopathy is NOT quackery. OUTCOME STUDIES show very convincing clinical results (eg Spence et al) Any doctor with a conscience would be mindful of that and recognise that homeopathy (which includes an in-depth holistic consultation does indeed work - even though HOW it works is most certainly open to debate. Countries such as Switzerland show a much more tolerant view of this and the view of its citizens. Of course any doctor who does harm by not using conventional treatment when it's really needed, can and will be disciplined. It is to homeopathy's credit that this very seldom happens and doctors using alternative medicine are in the lowest bracket of fees for indemnity insurance which shows that actuaries and people who study statistics rather than express their opinion vituperatively seem to understand the 'danger' of doctor using CAM a bit more intelligently. Unfortunately here we don't seem to care much about what the people want and what they say they want. This is unfortunate for a country in which great liberals such as John Stuart Mill once walked.

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