NHS Homeopathy Spending

In our campaigning against the funding of homeopathy on the NHS, we have highlighted that the total annual spend is ‘between £3m and £5m per year’. Some people may have a particular interest in how we came to this estimate – for those people, full details of our research and calculations are below. By way of summary:

  • In the 2013/14 fiscal year, 14 NHS England CCGs reported that they fund homeopathy, spending around £300,000 in total
  • A further 17 CCGs commission via the RLHIM in London, and are unsure as to the level of their funding
  • Homeopathic hospitals in Bristol and Glasgow received around £1.6m-£2m in total.

Calculating Total Homeopathy Spending 

It comes as a surprise to many people not familiar with the workings of the NHS that there is no clear figure on how much money is spent on homeopathy. There is no single person responsible in the NHS for collecting and monitoring this figure, given the devolved funding model of the NHS. In fact, the only way to put such a figure together would be to individually write to each of the health bodies in the UK in turn. To gather data on homeopathy spending in England, one would need to write to all 211 of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in England to ask them (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have a slightly different systems).

So, in mid-2014, that’s precisely what Good Thinking did.

The good news, initially, is that the overwhelming majority of CCGs confirmed that they do not fund homeopathy and that they have no contracts in places with any homeopathic suppliers – in fact, 180 out of 211 CCGs told us this. That left just 31 CCGs who still funded homeopathy, which we can show clearly on a map of CCG boundaries:

CCG Homeopathy Funding Status - 2013

CCG Homeopathy Funding Status – 2013

Clearly, geography plays a significant role in the likelihood of a CCG funding homeopathy: if the CCG is adjacent to the site of a current or former homeopathic hospital (such as the institutions in Bristol, Liverpool and London), it’s much more likely to fund homeopathy. For this reason, it’s particularly significant that Bristol Homeopathic Hospital recently announced it will no longer be funding homeopathic remedies, and that similar institutions in Liverpool and Tunbridge Wells closed their doors for the final time some years ago. The exception to this rule, clearly, is the North East.

North Eastern Homeopathy

Although it looks somewhat perplexing to see homeopathy funded in the North East, when examining the 2013 figures it becomes a little clearer what factors might be at play. In 2013, homeopathy was funded in only four CCGs in the North East:

CCG 2013/14 spend
NHS Gateshead CCG £176.56
NHS Newcastle North and East CCG £3.27
NHS Newcastle West CCG £37.41
NHS South Tyneside CCG £14.15
Total £231.39

Clearly, an annual spend of under £250 is not the most significant support homeopathy gets from the NHS – it’s far more likely to be relatively isolated incidents of spending. It’s also somewhat mind-boggling to think that an entire CCG managed to spend just £3.27 on homeopathy in a year – we’ve spent more than £3.27 on homeopathic products this year, and we are actively campaigning against it!

On a more serious note, it is worth highlighting that of 31 CCGs who fund homeopathy, these four North Eastern groups represent 13% of the homeopathy-funding CCGs. If lay homeopaths reassure patients that homeopathy works because “even the NHS provides it”, this small spend can have quite a large contribution to the support homeopathy continues to receive.

North Western Homeopathy

Aside from a small spend in Central Manchester, numbers in the North West were significantly higher than the North East:

CCG 2013/14 spend
NHS Central Manchester CCG £18.68
NHS Halton CCG £10,000.00
NHS Knowsley CCG £2,000.00
NHS Liverpool CCG £34,050.00
NHS Wirral CCG £15,409.00
Total £61,477.68

South Western Homeopathy

The spend on homeopathy in the South West in 2013/14 were the highest yet:

CCG 2013/14 spend
NHS Bristol CCG £145,420.00
NHS Dorset CCG £8,232.00
NHS North Somerset CCG £24,765.00
NHS Somerset CCG £39,717.00
NHS South Gloucestershire CCG £24,169.00
Total £242,303.00

On top of these figures, we were informed that Bristol Homeopathic Hospital had a spend of £299,616 in 2013/14 – accounting for the combination of the South Western CCGs’ spend on homeopathy, plus an additional £57,313 of presumably direct funding.

Homeopathy in London

Hardest of all to ascertain was the spend on homeopathy in London, with 17 CCGs responding to tell us that they are unable to confirm whether they fund homeopathy or not. Those 17 CCGs are:

 

Barking & Dagenham Barnet Camden City & Hackney Croydon
Enfield Haringey Havering Islington Merton
Newham Redbridge Richmond Sutton Tower Hamlets
Waltham Forest Wandsworth      

Because each of the CCGs holds block contract with University College London Hospitals (UCLH), the body who runs the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (formerly the London Homeopathic Hospital), we were directed to UCLH to determine the spend of the homeopathic hospital. UCLH told us that their records did not allow them to distinguish where money was being spent on homeopathic products or services. In effect, for the 17 London CCGs, we were told the homeopathy spend was not knowable.

However, some information is available. Despite NHS Merton CCG indicating to us in July 2014 that they were unable to determine their level of homeopathy spending, they had previously informed a Merton resident in May 2014 that their spend was £178,000. If we use this figure as a benchmark for the other 16 CCGs, the total homeopathy spend in London could be as high as £3,026,000.

UPDATE: after a supporter of Good Thinking wrote to his local MP, Tania Mathers MP, to highlight the lack of information available regarding NHS homeopathy spending in Richmond, NHS Richmond CCG were able to confirm to Ms Mathers MP that they spent £31,797 in 2013/14 and £32,848 in 2014/15. Using this new information as a benchmark, it’s possible that the 17 London CCGs spend around £1,783,274. However, this figure would suggest that the Royal London Hospital for Integrative Medicine receives less NHS funding per year than the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, which seems unlikely.

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.

Overall homeopathy spending in the UK (2013/14)

Assuming a reasonable benchmark of the total London figures, the full estimated NHS spend for homeopathy in 2013/14 is:

Area 2013/14 spend
North East £231.39
North West £61,477.68
South West £299,000.00*
London (estimated) £3,026,000.00
Scotland £1,800,000.00
Wales £316.77
Northern Ireland £0
Total £5,187,025.84

*cost as reported by the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, incorporating all South West spending

Changes to homeopathy spending since our campaign began

Donate with JustGivingSkeptics around the country have been campaigning against the funding of homeopathy on the UK for a great number of years, and we have been happy to add our voice and our own efforts to the cause. Since calculating our figures for the 2013/14 spending, there have been a number of developments which effect the overall homeopathy spend in the UK:

  • Bristol Homeopathic Hospital – closed in October 2015
  • NHS Bristol CCG – currently reviewing homeopathy spending
  • NHS Central Manchester CCG – no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Central Manchester CCG – no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Dorset CCG – no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Gateshead CCG – merged into NHS Newcastle and Gateshead, and ceased funding
  • NHS Halton CCG – no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Harrow CCG no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Knowsley CCG – no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Liverpool CCG – no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Newcastle North and East CCG – merged into NHS Newcastle and Gateshead, and ceased funding
  • NHS Newcastle West CCG – merged into NHS Newcastle and Gateshead, and ceased funding
  • NHS South Tyneside CCG no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS South Gloucestershire CCG – currently reviewing homeopathy spending
  • NHS Sutton CCG – no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Wandsworth CCG no longer funds homeopathy
  • NHS Wirral CCG currently reviewing homeopathy spending

CCG Homeopathy Funding June 2016