Liverpool doctors offer support for our homeopathy campaign

Last year we began a successful challenge to NHS Liverpool CCG’s decision to continue funding homeopathy in spite of the conclusions own consultations, which strongly advised an end to the service. The re-consultation is currently drawing to a close, and we expect to hear more in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, we contacted a number of Liverpool-based doctors who expressed their support for our call to end homeopathy on the NHS. Two of them wanted to share their concerns regarding homeopathy funding in NHS Liverpool CCG, and we have published their thoughts below (the doctors preferred to stay anonymous, not because they were unwilling to stand by their statements, but because they were reluctant to answer the inevitable flood of emails from homeopathy lobby groups).

Palliative care consultant:

“The pro-homeopathy folks push the idea of homeopathy having no adverse effects. Untrue. 1) Promotion of homeopathy as treatment, for example for cancer, results in rejection of conventional treatment, causes persisting illness, even death. 2) Promotion of the idea that we can control our bodies with the help of homeopathy causes psychological harm when it becomes clear that they have failed. 3) Claiming that homeopathy is the therapy – when it is the support, care and time given by the homeopath that is producing the benefit, promotes a “pill for an ill” concept, hiding the truth that good communication is effective.”

General Practitioner, NHS Liverpool CCG

“I am a GP in south Liverpool. On occasion I am approached for referrals to homeopathy, or will receive clinic letters back for patients who are already seeing the Liverpool Medical Homeopathy Service. My objections to homeopathy are multifaceted.

Firstly, the Procedures of Low Clinical Priority policy in operation across Merseyside and Cheshire prohibit my referral of patients suffering from various medical problems for certain treatments. The information leaflet given to patients to explain why this is states (at the top, in a highlighted box): “We… need to make sure that we concentrate our resources on treatments and procedures which medical evidence tells us are most beneficial for patients.“ So, those patients with painful varicose veins, or chronic back pain due to large breasts, cannot be referred to a surgeon because the NHS does not deem these problems worthy of its limited funds. For the CCG to then decide that it has funding available for homeopathy must be a bitter pill to swallow (as opposed to a sugar pill!) for these patients, as it appears to be in direct contradiction of the PLCP information leaflet. If the patient was to challenge me on why they can’t see a surgeon to deal with their painful veins or back, but the next patient coming in – perhaps with a benign, self-limiting skin condition – could be funded to see a homeopath, it would not be possible for me to formulate an explanation as to why this should be the case – because it is clearly unfair that one should be funded and the other not. If there are insufficient funds for treatments lacking evidence, then how can homeopathy continue to be funded?

Secondly, the CCG’s endorsement of homeopathy legitimises it to patients as an effective treatment. Whilst I have absolutely no reason to criticise the doctors at the Liverpool Medical Homeopathy Service with regard to this particular point, it should be remembered that not all purveyors of homeopathy have medical degrees. Therefore patients who have previously received a referral funded by the NHS may choose next time to seek a homeopath’s opinion first with regard to symptoms which may represent a serious underlying pathology. The CCG’s endorsement legitimises the homeopath as a healthcare provider, which may lead to a delay in seeking and receiving a proper medical assessment and treatment.

Thirdly, on a scientific basis it is completely implausible and indeed this is borne out by systematic reviews of the evidence. It would be an embarrassment to the city of Liverpool if the CCG chose to ignore the advice of the Government’s Chief Scientific Officer, Chief Medical Officer and NICE, and continue to fund this. People wishing to seek homeopathic treatment could continue to do so on a private basis.”