Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Homeopathy no longer to be prescribed on the NHS (but not banned)

In haste, quick lunchtime post - please let me know of any errors.

NHS England's Board has agreed today with NHS England's recommendations (following a big consultation) that homeopathy should not be routinely prescribed. It should not be prescribed for new patients and prescriptions already happening should be wound down.

There were several papers and topics under discussion at NHS England's meeting today, the relevant Board Paper discussing homeopathy is Items which should not be routinely prescribed in primary care: findings of consultation and next steps – for decision (see sections 34 to 38 on Homeopathy, also reference made in the next section, on Herbal remedies in section 40).

Note that this is not a ban on homeopathy. NHS England does not have the legal powers to prevent doctors from prescribing anything that is not on the Department of Health's blacklist (I think in practice it is less a ban on prescribing, more an acknowledgement that it will not be reimbursed which is probably effectively the same). However Section 43 of the document linked above specifically proposes that the Secretary of State should add homeopathy, and several other things, to the blacklist. That would involve a separate consultation and then a decision.
Edit 2 Dec: "In October 2015, Good Thinking wrote to the Department of Health to highlight that under all applicable criteria, we could see several reasons why homeopathy should be added to the Blacklist, in line with the Department of Health’s legal obligations. The Department was reluctant to respond positively, but in November 2015, the Department agreed they would hold a consultation, and in July 2017 the Department of Health directed us to NHS England’s consultation as their response to our request.

Michael Marshall, Project Director of the Good Thinking Society, said: “We are very pleased to see these recommendations by NHS England, coming two years after we first raised the issue of blacklisting homeopathy to the Department of Health. It is particularly commendable that NHS England took the additional step of actively recommending to that homeopathy be blacklisted. We will be writing to the Department of Health to urge them to take this recommendation seriously and to take swift action." Source.


At the time of writing (2pm, 30 Nov 2017) the British Homeopathic Association (BHA) hasn't include any reference to this news in their latest tweets. However over the last few days they have been successfully raising funds to request a judicial review of the process used by NHS England in this consultation. As I understand this is a two-step process - first permission must be given for the review, second the review must take place.

The previous judicial review (by a member of the public but considered by the Judge to have been steered by the BHA's hand) did not go well.

But it's been a good November for people and piglets - both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the NHS have come out against homeopathy.

Even if NHS England's decision had gone the other way homeopathy is still in a perilous state on the NHS and prescriptions have been falling over the last 20 years.

Thanks to @fermi239 for the heads up on Twitter earlier today and thanks also to @zeno001 and  @UKHomeopathyReg for further discussion and clarification.

Further reading: this story in the news
As Edzard Ernst noted in July 2017, the tenor of media articles covering NHS funding has generally become much less favourable towards homeopathy, and more favourable (in general) towards a skeptical view of homeopathy than has been seen in previous years. This itself is encouraging - when you want to get something changed it's a lot easier if the prevailing view matches. For a long time it didn't.

NHS tells Jeremy Hunt: Homeopathy on prescription should be 'blacklisted' because they don't work Independent 30 November 2017

Humanists celebrate end of NHS homeopathy prescriptions in England Humanists UK 30 November 2017

NHS England calls for homeopathy to be blacklisted; Enfield CCG ends homeopathy funding Good Thinking Society 30 November 2017

Thank God the NHS has come to its senses over homeopathy Independent 30 November 2017

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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).