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Oct 26 2015

NHS Homeopathy spending around the UK

On Friday, the Scotsman included a feature on the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital – the NHS-funded homeopathy clinic based at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital. The newspaper highlighted that the 8,111 patients treated by the facility in 2014-15 represents a slight drop from the 8366 treated in 2013-14. This builds on a report in September in the same newspaper which showed spending on homeopathy in Scotland was around £1.83m per year, most of which was provided by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Although our homeopathy campaign to date has focused primarily on spending by NHS England, we have had a keen interest in spending at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. A Freedom of Information request we submitted to the hospital in 2014 showed that spending levels were around £1.7m per year. From this we can see that despite a drop in the number of patients seen by the hospital, costs have actually risen.

In order to help us get a full picture of homeopathy spending around the UK, we’ve been working with volunteers Adam Cuerden and Rhys Morgan to query each health board in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Here’s what we found:

Homeopathy in Scotland

There are 14 health boards in Scotland. Of these, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Forth Valley, Highland and Orkney all confirmed to us that they do not fund homeopathic remedies. Of the remainder:

Health Board 2014/15 spend
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde £1,835,000
NHS Grampian £110,372
NHS Tayside £25,006
NHS Western Isles £14,761
NHS Shetland £851

Scotland-homeopathyThree bodies gave slightly unclear responses:

  • NHS Ayrshire and Arran informed us that they do indeed fund homeopathy as part of an agreement with the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, and that any costs they would incur would already be included in the figures released by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
  • NHS Lanarkshire informed us that they stopped referring patients for homeopathy in April 2015, but that there are a number of existing patients who will continue their treatment by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and that associated costs would be covered by the figures released by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
  • NHS Lothian told us that they do have a process for referring patients to the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital for homeopathy, but were unable to substantiate how much of their budget went to this service. However, it is very likely that this cost is covered by the figures released by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

With this in mind, it is likely that homeopathy spending in Scotland for 2014/15 was in the region £1.8m-£2m.

Homeopathy in Wales

There are 7 local health bodies in Wales. Of the 7, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Cwm Taf, Hywel Dda and Powys all confirmed they did not fund homeopathy, and had not done so since 2009. Two health boards did confirm some spending on homeopathy:

Local Health Board 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Aneurin Bevan £203.34 £50.91 £599.41 £90.05 £96.77 £88.92
Betsi Cadwaladr £993.00 £577.00 £459.00 £467.00 £220.00 £161.00

Wales-HomeopathyFrom these figures we can see that in 2014/15, the two boards spent a combined £249.92 – almost a fifth of the £1,196.34 they were spending in 2009/10.

Only Cardiff and Vale were unable to quantify their homeopathy spending. Their lengthy reply informed us that while they don’t have any dedicated homeopathy funding, they do not break down spending within an overall care package of patient pathway. However, given that they do not have a contract in place with a homeopathy provider, and given the trends seen across the rest of Wales, it is likely that funding for homeopathy in this area is either negligible or nil.

Homeopathy in Northern Ireland

There are 5 local health boards in Northern Ireland, all of which confirmed that they do not fund homeopathy.

Conclusion

What appears to be clear from the enquiries made by our volunteers Rhys and Adam is that the problem of homeopathy being provided on the NHS is largely confined to England and Scotland, with only negligible (and diminishing) spending in Wales and no spending at all in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the Scotland spending remains a serious concern: every penny of the almost £2million spent on homeopathy north of the border is money that could have been better spent providing treatments that really work to people that really need them.

The decision of NHS Lanarkshire to withdraw their funding for homeopathic treatments is an encouraging sign, but with costs in Scotland rising even as interest in the treatment falls, it is important that NHS Scotland address this issue sooner rather than later, before any more money is wasted on treatments even the NHS admits do not work.