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Experts attack 'ill-conceived' plans for patients to buy homeopathy on the NHS

By Nigel Praities

Government plans for patients to have the freedom to buy homeopathy on the NHS as part of its personal budgets scheme have come under fire.

The plans include cash for patients to buy ‘non-traditional' treatments, such as homeopathy, but have been attacked as ‘ill-conceived' by academics and top NHS managers.

The comments came during an evidence session of the House of Commons Science and Technology meeting today, which is looking at the use of homeopathy on the NHS.

Answering a question on whether homeopathy should be included as an option in the personal budget pilots, Dr James Thallon, Medical Director of NHS West Kent, said the plans could lead to NHS money being used for ‘ineffective' treatments.

‘There are issues about whether or not they should be able to choose a treatment without any evidence of benefit and that happens when that treatment doesn't work and the patient has to then have treatment on the NHS,' he said.

Also speaking at the session, Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, said it was an ‘ill-conceived notion' that patient choice had to dominate in healthcare.

‘If the NHS commitment to evidence-based medicine is not to be anything more than lip-service, then money has to be spent on something else.'

‘I would argue that it is unnecessary, unreliable and unethical for homeopathy to be available on the NHS,' he said.

But Dr Peter Fisher, director of research at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, defended the use of homeopathy on the NHS.

‘I am in favour of patient choice. There has got to be a balance and patient choice is a good thing,' he said.

Experts criticised plans to allow patients to buy homeopathy with personal budgets at an evidence session of the House of Commons Science and Technology meeting

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