Some brief thoughts on the department of health’s response to the homeopathy evidence check.
The predictably “hands-off” response [PDF] to the NHS using and funding homeopathy by the current administration potentially falls into a couple of obvious traps.
Whilst it ducks the thorny questions, in attempting to sate both sides of the arguments it has fallen between two stools.
Pro-homeopathy types will perhaps not be enamoured with the fact that the “evidence base” for homeopathy gets very short shrift, with homeopathy rightly being labeled as implausible and entirely placebo-based:
the majority of independent scientists consider the evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy to be weak or absent, and that there is currently no plausible scientific mechanism for homeopathy.
Those with an anti-homeopathy viewpoint maybe annoyed that the government ducked the decision on nhs funding, and palmed it off to the PCTs, citing patient choice.
the overriding reason for NHS provision is that homeopathy is available to provide patient choice.
This is a curious and illogical decision to make, and it has the distinct whiff of some “Duchy original” tinkering. I suspect that the department of health will shortly be inundated with FOI requests to determine if this was the case.
By ignoring the evidence base and going with “patient choice” the government opens the PCTs to all sorts of (perhaps) spurious requests.
Should cancer patients denied expensive therapies on basis of cost re-request them, citing their patient choice as a major and important factor? Should those wishing plastic or cosmetic surgery be allowed to get it on the NHS, as it is their choice? Should I get a case of Innis and Gunn oak-aged beer each month, as I find it relaxes me after a hard day’s work? At the tax payers expense?
Of course not – the NHS cannot and should not fund everything. But the first place cuts should have been made is on faddy magic pills that do not work (and, I concede, my beer…).
Should those wishing a quick and painless “assisted suicide” get it from the NHS, as it is their choice? Should a rather vocal minority with royal approval get worthless sugar pills with no medicinal value whatsoever?
The DoH response clearly states it does not wish to get involved in ethical discussions –
We note also that it is not for the Department of Health to comment on the ethics of the use of a particular treatment in a particular setting.
– yet it continues to hold a tough ethical & moral stance on the euthanasia issue.
To me, this response looks awfully like an attempt to fudge a decision which allows continued funding of homeopathy, despite overwhelming evidence that it does not work and is a pointless waste of NHS funds (although, as has been pointed out, there are other targets within the NHS budget in need of trimming).
When patients suffer due to lack of NHS funding, shouldn’t every opportunity be taken to trim away waste?