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Homeopathic hospital in crisis

By Nigel Praities

Campaigners look to have lost their fight to save a leading homeopathic hospital, in a landmark case that accelerates the treatment's deepening crisis over NHS funding.

West Kent PCT decided there was ‘not enough evidence of clinical effectiveness' to justify funding routine homeopathic consultations and treatments at the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital, a decision which may force its closure.

A Pulse investigation in January revealed widespread cuts in PCT funding for homeopathy, with a quarter of trusts stopping or reducing funding over the past two years. Earlier this month, Pulse revealed GPs were losing faith with homeopathy, with prescriptions halving from 2005 to 2007.

Campaigners against the cuts in West Kent applied for a judicial review last year . Although it was later dropped it forced the PCT to launch its own independent review. But this found 66% of patients and 80% of GPs did not support funding homeopathic services at the hospital, justifying the PCT decision to stop referrals for homeopathy.

Dr James Thallon, medical director at West Kent PCT, said: ‘We appreciate that some people report finding homeopathy beneficial and they will be disappointed by this decision. But ultimately it is the clear duty of PCTs to make best use of public money by commissioning clinically cost-effective care.'

Dr Tim Robinson, a GP who provides a local homeopathic service in Dorset, said this was a ‘test case' which would send ripples around the country. ‘The worry is that other PCTs may follow West Kent's lead. The monies that are being spent on homeopathy compared with the NHS budget are small and are falling.'

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