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I won’t be mourning their demise

Edzard Ernst analyses the stated acheivements of the now-defunct Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health

Pulse readers have already learned the Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH) has 'decided to close'. On their website, they state the ‘trustees feel the Foundation has achieved its key objectives of promoting the use of integrated health.' They then list what looks like major achievements.

So let's analyse the self-proclaimed accomplishments of FIH during the last 17 years.

‘Integrated health has become part of the mainstream health agenda, with over half a million patients using complementary therapies each year, alongside conventional medicine'

This sounds as though they are saying that, since 1993, more Britons are using CAM. Is that true? Actually, there is very little evidence that CAM has become more prevalent in the UK. But, much more important, what is the evidence that more CAM-use leads to better health? The evidence for that assumption is suspiciously close to zero. So can we assume that FIH score a point here? I don't think so.

‘From 2000-2007…FIH ran a regulation programme which resulted in the creation of…the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council'

True, FIH used plenty of taxpayer's money to facilitate the creation of this body. It turned out to be rejected by most CAM practitioners, be voluntary instead of mandatory (so offering no good consumer protection) and a monstrous flop all round. No ‘brownie points' here either, I'm afraid.

‘On 1st April 2010, the Secretary of State for Health announced plans to introduce statutory regulation for herbalists and to consider the equivalent for acupuncture'

True, FIH did facilitate a proposal for regulating herbalists, TCM practitioners and acupuncturists (the ‘Pittilo report'). But the government rejected this proposal. Regulation of herbalists will probably happen but not as FIH had suggested. The above statement therefore shows a worrying degree of detachment from reality. Certainly no point scored on this one.

And this is, I am afraid, where the list of achievements ends. Yes, only three! And all of them are a bit on the puzzling side, to say the least.

I think, the true legacy of FIH is quite different. During 17 years, this organisation has misinformed the UK public about CAM. It had become a well-financed lobby group for unproven or disproven treatments and a tool in the hands of Prince Charles to foist upon us his often bizarre ideas about healthcare.

Should we be mourning FIH's demise? I fail to see why.

Professor Edzard Ernst