Homeopathy and the NHS debate

29 March 2017  Parliamentary Proceedings

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con)

AN INSIGHT INTO the 'Good Thinking Society',

from the UK Parliament

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con)

I beg to move, 

That this House has considered homeopathy and the NHS. Mr Hanson, it is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, particularly when before we have even started the match, you have given us extra time. It is not often that we are able to start a debate earlier than expected.

This debate has come about for two reasons.

The first is the attacks on the long-established national health service homeopathic service. Secondly, we are approaching a very happy moment, Homeopathy Awareness Week, when the homeopathic community comes together to tell people about what it can offer in providing support to doctors and alternatives where other treatments have not worked.

Homeopathy Awareness Week takes place from 10 to 16 April in a celebration of homeopathy: a safe, gentle, natural system of medicine that I have used for 30 years to great effect. In the UK, it might surprise people to hear that 15% of our population already use homeopathy and a further 80% have heard about it.

In the UK 15% of our population,
already use homeopathy

Many people are not sure what makes it different from other medical systems. The week aims to get people to have a better understanding. A lot of events have been organised, including the film première of “Just One Drop”.

To put things in a global perspective, some 450 million people use homeopathy each year. If homeopathy did not work, why would so many people choose to use it and carry on using it? 

It is a global medical system, the second largest medical system in the world, and is used particularly in very poor communities, which I will come on to.On British practitioners, a survey recently showed that 72% of homeopathic patients rated their practitioners either very good or excellent. The 4Homeopathy group recent study showed that practitioners are treating all kinds of things, from irritable bowel syndrome—30%—to depression—20%.

More than three quarters of teenagers and 41% of adults receive homeopathic treatments for skin disorders. About a third of adults and 40% of teenagers go to homeopaths for anxiety and stress. It is a service that delivers both in and out.

Some 450 million, people (globally) use homeopathy each year

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. I certainly would not dispute the testimony of those who have benefited from homeopathic treatment, but does he not agree that scientific evidence of its effectiveness would help in a decision on whether to use it?

David Tredinnick

The right hon. Gentleman, who has been in the House as long as I have, has made a good point. There is scientific evidence out there, although we could use more. One of the problems is that, when scientific evidence is produced, it is pooh-poohed. However, that does not stop people using, for example, arnica cream when they get wounds.

It is a standard preparation and it is a homeopathic medicine. So there is a degree of need for more studies, but there are studies out there that are ignored.

I have said homeopathy is the second biggest medical system in the world. Some would say it is the most prestigious. It has always been held in very high regard by people who are widely respected. It is no secret that the royal family and many celebrities have used homeopathic medicine over the years. It has become increasingly important in an age when drug dependency is epidemic and when there are serious worries about the effectiveness of antibiotics.

The homeopathic private sector is growing fast not only in this country, Europe and America, but everywhere. However, in the NHS, we are under attack from people in the medical establishment. This goes back to 2005, when a letter was put out attacking homeopathic services in the health service. It was actually a bogus letter on NHS letterhead. The Countess of Mar and Lord Palmer asked a question about it and the reply acknowledged that“this document was not issued with the knowledge or approval of the Department of Health and that the use of the National Health Service logo was inappropriate in this instance. The document does not represent any central policy on the commissioning of homoeopathy”.

Anti-homeopathy groups such as the so-called Good Thinking Society, which is a front for one individual, a sceptic called Simon Singh, are threatening clinical commissioning groups with legal action for commissioning homeopathy. People such as Simon Singh are anti-patient, anti-choice and closed-minded individuals who have never studied or used homeopathy.

In the UK, we have a robust system of homeopathic regulation. We have the Faculty of Homeopathy, which was formed in the 1950s for doctors. Doctors are, of course, regulated by the General Medical Council as well. In 2015, the Professional Standards Authority took on oversight of the regulation of the 2,000 members of the Society of Homeopaths. Such enhanced regulation is important and is a good reason why homeopathy should be more greatly available in the health service.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

It is always good to have debates on anything to do with health, but particularly with homeopathy.

There have been several reviews of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy.

Indeed, this House had a report in 2010, which the Minister will be aware of, from the Science and Technology Committee. In my constituency of Strangford is a major shop in Newtownards that deals in nothing else but homeopathic medicine, which clearly shows a demand. Does the hon. Gentleman feel it is perhaps now time for the Government to look at homeopathy in a new light because of the demand that there is, and also to see what homeopathy can offer?

David Tredinnick

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. There is insanity about this subject. The amount of money spent on homeopathic prescriptions in the health service is about £110,000 per annum

So why are those against it
so fanatically against it? 

What is it that gives them the swivel-eyed look? Why do they take so much trouble to rub out an alternative at a time when the mantra of the Government is patient choice? It is quite bemusing.

Many of the patients that go to homeopaths have contraindications to pharmaceutical drugs, or chronic illnesses that have not been helped by conventional medicines. I say to the Minister that there are no cost savings to be made by banning homeopathic prescriptions, as patients will still need other interventions instead.

The Government should assess how much money the health service has spent on other interventions for these patients before the successful use of homeopathic medicine.If we look around the world, we see a much more developed landscape.

“In France, 70% of pregnant women use homeopathy.”

You can go to any chemist in France and find homeopathic preparations and chemists who are qualified to talk about them. If we go further afield, I particularly like the example of India where there is a Ministry for complementary medicine called the Ministry of AYUSH—the “H” in AYUSH stands for homeopathic medicine. I will say a little about that later.

Click to Open – read all the debate...

Copyright 2018, British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons