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.
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.