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Why I chose... to be a GP homoeopathist

Dr Katalin Borbely found that her frustration with modern pharmacy led her to offer her patients alternative medicine

Dr Katalin Borbely - online

Name Dr Katalin Borbely

Age 51

Title GP and homoeopathist

Location of practice Sessional GP

 

 

 

Background

I worked in Hungary and in Denmark since 1989 first as an emergency doctor then switched to working as a GP. I have been working as a GP in the UK since 2009.

Some years into this work I felt I was becoming a frustrated GP, and I didn’t like it. Not that I was unsuccessful. My practice of seven years had been growing slowly but steadily, and the last patient satisfaction survey had had encouraging responses.

Still, when I was looking at the hopeful face of Mr Jones, I couldn’t help feeling frustrated. I had then been a doctor for twelve years, a specialist of emergency care and of general practice, having seen hundreds of similar cases before and still I was helpless. Mr Jones, my new patient who moved into the area the week before, had been suffering of essential hypertension for a decade and taken just about every antihypertensive there is, for shorter or longer periods. He was currently taking a triple combination of antihypertensives, plus several other medicines for his concomitant problems – that was thirteen (yes, thirteen) different kinds of prescription drugs and yet he was full of complaints and symptoms and, rightly, expected that I would solve his problems right then and there.

But I couldn’t. We had been talking about his health for about twenty minutes then. I started with offering prescription drugs recommended by the applicable therapeutic guidelines. He had taken them all before and stopped because of either side effects or lack of efficacy. I talked about additional options then, such as diet and lifestyle changes, increasing doses, replacing some elements of his multiple combinations, dropping certain drugs, everything. None of it was good, even I couldn’t really believe we would find the right solution.

And he was not the first, nor the only one. It appeared that evidence-based medicine, however effective for the vast majority of my clientele, could not always offer a solution for every individual even if their maladies were amongst the most common ones. While the balance of benefits versus risks has indeed been found positive for our medicines in clinical trials, this is not always true for every single patient.

The words of the Hippocratic Oath came to my mind: ‘I will come for the benefit of the sick’. Was it really in Mr Jones’s best interest for me to continue prescribing him drugs that he himself said he didn’t want to take any longer as he felt they didn’t really help him? Wasn’t there any other way?

So that was the trigger that made me start searching and learning. What I really needed was to be able to use medicines that either complement our common drugs or are alternatives to them.

I have happily found that many universities all over Europe were offering courses on complementary and alternative medicine, thousands of doctors were practicing it, many health insurance organisations including the NHS were funding it, and patients were not only liking but often demanding it. And a few years later I became a certified medical homeopath.

Why did you choose this work?

Homeopathy is often referred to as ‘the gentle treatment’ because of the apparent lack of undesirable effects. It is typically and mostly used in addition to traditional prescriptions in situations such as the one I described above. Polypharmacy and multimorbidity are the two most difficult problems to handle in a GP practice, so any option to reduce the number of concomitantly used active substances should be welcomed whenever possible! Indeed homeopathy is a viable option for many patients to complement their chronic therapies with a carefully selected remedy thus allowing a reduction of their doses and/or simplifying their treatment regimes.

Challenges

Homeopathy is not for everyone, though. For doctors to use it to maximum benefit it requires not only years of laborious studying but an awful lot of the GP’s most precious commodity: time to be spent with the patient. A homeopathic interview can rarely be fitted into the constraints of a 10-minute appointment as the doctor must get to know the person in detail, not only the disease. And for patients it requires an open mind to accept the unusual, the out-of-the-ordinary. So, in daily GP practice I only ever offer it to those who either request it themselves or those that really have exhausted all other possibilities.

Advantages

In some, less common, situations it can even be used as an alternative to chemicals, with great caution. Being an empirical branch of medicine, homeopathy is individual and, like all other types of medicine, it may or may not work for a certain patient in a certain situation so it is paramount that evidence- and guideline-based treatment must never be denied. Nevertheless, I have dozens if not hundreds of cases when homeopathy turned out to be sufficient, e.g. in cases when a patient was reluctant to take a prescription medicine for fear of expected side effects.

Financially, I appear to have earned an unintended and possibly undeserved fame amongst practice managers since statistics show that prescription expenses decrease quite considerably with the introduction of homeopathy in a practice. Homeopathic remedies are cheap, particularly in comparison to many modern high-tech prescription medicines and the necessary treatment duration is generally shorter, too.

I don’t intend to promote homeopathy or to explain its features. All I wants to state is the fact that it works for me – and, more importantly, it works for many of my patients. Naturally, it cannot solve every situation but, as a GP, my frustration has eased considerably since I have been able to offer something additional, something different to those patients of mine that are in the highest need.

Readers' comments (25)

  • I would happily have a lot more time with the patient to explore aspects of their social, psychological, physical and health belief systems. I could then effectively prescribe some evidence based medicine or exercise or relaxation or even an inactive substance as a reminder to concentrate on their issue for moments in the day. Society/governments choose not to fund us in this way where we could be more effective and the therapeutics value of the consultation and physician contact would come to the fore. Can't do that for 6.9 consults/pt/yr for 80 quid.
    But I do not and will not believe that homeopathic medicines have anything to do with the improvement in patients symptoms.
    It's not 'western' medicine vs alternatives, it's western medicine is not applied in it's most effective form. Half an hour per patient please and I would challenge any homeopathic doctor to do better than me with time, the BNF, a few injectables and some surgical back up.

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  • Perhaps with 'pressures on A&E', we should a Homeopathic A&E as envisaged by Mitchell and Webb:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0

    I'm chuckling about the term 'integrative medicine' - it's hilarious self-delusion.

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  • As a clinical hypnotherapist. There is a fear I feel amongst gp's in considering the alternative route either as an alternative or an addition to pharmacological interventions. Choice of treatment should be available within the NHS. CH has been sited by NICE as a helping IBS sufferers. So why are gps reluctant to refer?

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  • The core fallacy here is that problems with medicine validate homeopathy in precisely the same way that plane crashes validate magic carpets.

    There is no reason to think homeopathy should work, no way it can work and no proof it does work.

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  • Thank you for sharing your experience, Dr Borbely. Quite courageous in this anti-homeopathy climate these days. Having been a sceptic myself, ridiculing homeopathic practitioners, I am ashamed to say (ignorance of youth I hope), I had to change my mind after having seen homeopathy work for animals to my surprise. I now use homeopathy in certain situations in my practice and am pleased i have this additional tool at my disposal. And lets face it, isn't there so much we don't know about how this world works... There are nuclear physicists who have no problem with homeopathy. I suppose they know how much we don't know and the limitations of the 'construct' of matter. Thats good enough for me.

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  • What a tragic waste of a medical education.

    Doesn't Dr Borbely understand Avogadro's number? If she relies on the "it works for me" sort of non-evidence, she's endangering patients when she practises regular medicine, even before we get to the make-believe stuff.

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  • Dear David
    Thanks for your comment. All comments are very useful and I'm grateful to learn my colleagues opinion. I agree we all work hard every day to help our patients and we all welcome new or new-old methods to improve our skills to do so. Yes, I do care and I do learn ever day for all our patients sake who cannot have chemicals yet need help/ treatment.
    If you had time please check out the pier reviewed evidences of homeopathic remedies at Homeopathic Faculty webside, I believe it will reassure you that there are evidences and we never harm our patients by using homeopathy as appropriate. Thanks again for your comment

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  • It is good to read a professional opinion that does not see homeopathy - which I have found really helpful in several cases - an enemy but support for traditional medicine. Thank you!

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  • I climbed a beanstork once, found some magic beans. I than sold them to all my patients and they were all cured. Jack the GP , Homeopathic lead NHS England

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  • Interesting article.

    A lot of these sceptics are clearly just envious of your success in helping patients. Sceptics would rather harm patients with their selective, non "evidenced-based", QOF-point accumulating, tickbox exercises" that focus more on their own agenda (money) than on helping patients.

    Keep up the good work - your patients must be grateful for your help.

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