Would you prefer to choose, or just be told what's right for you and your family?
It’s as simple as that. This is about choice. What’s at risk is your ability to choose how you want to be treated for illnesses, ailments and medical complaints. There are people who believe that you should be told which option is right for you. Worse than that, some of them believe you should be actively blocked from choosing for yourself. And homoeopathy is in the firing line.
You see, the healthcare industry is not a level playing field. There are huge forces at play, and they can impact on everyone. Some of the most influential people in healthcare have the ability to take choice away from you (and most of us) by influencing policy, supply chains and even advice that you are given by your doctor or health care professional.
When alternatives to “conventional medicine” gain momentum, there is a great deal at stake for organisations such as the pharmaceutical industry. Britain’s consumption of drugs is vast and increasing. About 650 million prescriptions are written in the UK each year by GPs alone. Medicines cost the NHS in England over £7 billion each year, 80% of which is spent on branded (patented) products. The pharmaceutical industry in the UK is the third most profitable economic activity after tourism and finance and it has a huge influence on government, NHS decision makers and ultimately GPs.
If too many people begin to seek “other” ways to improve their health, it can become a threat, so someindividuals and organisations offering “traditional” healthcare may feel the need to strike out. In fact there is a small group of people who are campaigning to persuade Primary Care Trusts (who make decisions about NHS services) to stop funding homeopathic treatment through the NHS. These people are persuasive and tenacious, with a strong political network within media and policy circles.
Here’s how the NHS homeopathic hospitals, the PCTs and the media are being affected right now:
- The Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital has closed.
- The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital has retained its contracts with almost all referring PCTs so far, but is under renewed threat, and has had to change its name to the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine.
- The Bristol Homeopathic Hospital faces an uncertain future in the long term as some PCTs have started to stop referring patients.
- A campaign to influence PCTs throughout the UK is encouraging them to stop referring patients for homeopathic treatment. One group even used NHS letterhead without permission to give the campaign an appearance of legitimacy. The Department of Health issued a statement criticising this. This is of major concern, because up until now many GPs have been willing to suggest homeopathy. There are even reports that some GPs who have used homeopathy for a long time are being told to stop.
- There is also a media campaign – both in traditional media and online, via blogs and forums - to discredit homeopathy. Homeopaths have been labelled “quacks”, "fraudsters” and even “murderers” by these people. Homeopathy has been called "witchcraft" and "magic". Attacks range from the unbalanced to the outright vicious.
- The Commons Science and Technology Committee published a profoundly flawed report, which claimed that there is no evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy, and which demanded that it stop being funded by the NHS. An analysis of this by H:MC21 is available here. An article about this report is available here.
We do not suggest that homeopathy is the only form of treatment which should be available. In fact, it might not be appropriate for some people. But we are very concerned at the steps which are being taken to discredit homeopathy, to attack homeopaths, and to stop people getting reasonable access to homeopathic treatment. We believe that everyone should have a choice in healthcare. After all, homeopathy has been part of the NHS since it was founded.
Find out what you can do, or read more about homeopathy.