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 outside of London reported that they fund homeopathy, spending around £300,000 in total
- By the end of the 2015/16 fiscal year, funding was reduced to just four CCGs – all based in the South West, totalling £183,945.
- A further 17 CCGs commission via the RLHIM in London, and report that they currently have no way of determining their level of their funding
- In Scotland, homeopathy spending in 2014/15 totalled around £1,985,990 – this fell to £1,708,687 by 2015/16
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 the UK, one would need to write to all 211 of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in England, plus the various health boards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So, that is precisely what Good Thinking did.
The good news, is that the overwhelming majority of health boards 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 in England told us this in 2014. That left just 31 CCGs who still funded homeopathy, which we can show clearly on a map of CCG boundaries:
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 – by 2016, this funding had gone:
|NHS Gateshead CCG||£176.56||£0.00||£0.00|
|NHS Newcastle North and East CCG||£3.27||£0.00||£0.00|
|NHS Newcastle West CCG||£37.41||£0.00||£0.00|
|NHS South Tyneside CCG||£14.15||£0.00||£0.00|
It’s 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 each 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 represented 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. For this reason, it is encouraging to see that the North East no longer funds homeopathy.
North Western Homeopathy
Aside from a small spend in Central Manchester, numbers in the North West were significantly higher than the North East. However, as a direct result of our work, the North West no longer funds homeopathy on the NHS:
|NHS Central Manchester CCG||£18.68||£0.00||£0.00|
|NHS Halton CCG||£10,000.00||£0.00||£0.00|
|NHS Knowsley CCG||£2,000.00||£0.00||£0.00|
|NHS Liverpool CCG||£34,050.00||£29,000.00||£29,000.00 (ceased)|
|NHS Wirral CCG||£15,409.00||£16,266.00||£13,970.00 (ceased)|
South Western Homeopathy
The spend on homeopathy in the South West in 2013/14 were disconcertingly high, and have remained so since:
|NHS Bristol CCG||£145,420.00||£149,819.00||£102,408.00|
|NHS Dorset CCG||£8,232.00||£0.00||£0.00|
|NHS North Somerset CCG||£24,765.00||£31,496.00||£23,276.00|
|NHS Somerset CCG||£39,717.00||£38,686.00||£36,402.00|
|NHS South Gloucestershire CCG||£24,169.00||£29,481.00||£21,859.00|
*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. The closure of the Hospital in 2015 has dealt with that issue, and removed that direct funding cost.
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|
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. This is because the RLHIM does not record when patients are given homeopathy, but merely records what conditions a patient has been treated for. Most interestingly, all 17 of the CCGs have clear policies in place to prevent the expenditure of their resources on homeopathy without first going through a detailed Individual Funding Request, and no such IFRs had been successful in the years we enquired about. Yet, patients at the RLHIM were receiving homeopathy. It seems highly likely to us that CCG funds are being spent on homeopathy at the RLHIM in direct opposition to those CCGs’ policies.
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.
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||2015/16 spend|
|NHS Ayrshire and Arran||£376,998.00||£214,859.00|
|NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde||£1,331,000.00||£1,286,000.00|
|NHS Western Isles||£14,761.00||£4,715.00|
Two bodies gave slightly unclear responses:
- NHS Lanarkshire informed us that they stopped referring patients for homeopathy in April 2015.
- 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 £1.9m-£2m, and for 2015/16 was in the region of £1.7m-£1.8m.
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, which has subsequently ended:
|Local Health Board||2009||2010||2011||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016|
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
Assuming a reasonable benchmark of the total London figures, the full estimated NHS spend for homeopathy:
|North East (ceased)||£231.39||£0.00||£0.00|
|North West (ceased)||£61,477.68||£45,266.00||£42,970.00|
*cost as reported by the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, incorporating all South West spending
Changes to homeopathy spending since our campaign began
Skeptics 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 has closed
- NHS Bristol CCG has reduced homeopathy spending by 29%
Bodies which no longer fund homeopathy:
- NHS Central Manchester CCG
- NHS Dorset CCG
- NHS Gateshead CCG*
- NHS Halton CCG
- NHS Harrow CCG
- NHS Knowsley CCG
- NHS Liverpool CCG
- NHS Newcastle North and East CCG*
- NHS Newcastle West CCG*
- NHS South Tyneside CCG
- NHS Sutton CCG
- NHS Wandsworth CCG
- NHS Wirral CCG
- Aneurin Bevan University Health Board
- Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
*merged into NHS Newcastle and Gateshead
CCGs currently reviewing homeopathy:
- NHS Bristol CCG
- NHS North Somerset
- NHS Somerset
- NHS South Gloucestershire CCG