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High Court rules to keep homeopathy off NHS prescriptions

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens: High Court's decision is welcome
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens: High Court's decision is welcome

The High Court has rejected a legal challenge by the British Homeopathic Association (BHA) to overturn NHS England’s decision to scrap homeopathy from prescriptions.

The BHA applied for a judicial review in October 2017 after NHS England announced it would scrap 18 “ineffective, unsafe or low clinical treatments” from prescriptions – including homeopathy – to save “up to £141 million a year”.

In a blog post last month (May 6), the BHA said its application to overturn the commissioner’s decision was based on the view that NHS England's public consultation on scrapping certain treatments from prescription “was fundamentally flawed” as the commissioner “failed to properly consult on its proposal to ban prescriptions for homeopathic medicine”.

Handing down his judgment yesterday (June 5), Mr Justice Supperstone said: “I am satisfied that NHS England consulted at a time when proposals were still at a formative stage.

“There is no evidence of bias or predetermination on NHS England’s part.”

Justice Supperstone concluded that while “arguable”, “none of grounds” of the BHA's challenge were “made out” and “accordingly” dismissed it.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the High Court’s “clear cut” decision was “strongly welcome”.

“There is no robust evidence to support homeopathy, which is at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funding,” Mr Stevens said.

BHA responds to decision

In a post on the BHA’s website, the association described the judge's decision as a “disappointment”.

“It is important to remember that the real losers in this case are the patients who are now being refused a treatment on which they have come to depend,” BHA chair Margaret Wyllie said.

NHS England's guidance on prescriptions

In guidance for clinical commissioning groups, published in July 2017, NHS England said homeopathic treatments are “products of low clinical effectiveness”, with an annual spend of £92,412.

Of the 18 treatments NHS England announced it would scrap from prescriptions, homeopathy was one of seven it recommended should be blacklisted by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH).

Earlier this year (March 29), NHS England published further guidance to restrict prescriptions for over-the-counter medicines for 35 treatments – including oral thrush and dandruff – to save “around a further £100 million a year”.

Do you agree with the High Court's decision?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Disappointed seems to be the word of the week. Apparently it means, utterly devastated.

Watto 59, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

It is very simplistic to asess this from the net drug cost to the NHS.  Chances are that at least the homeopathic preps are actaully taken by the patient, and they believe it is doing them some good.  Yes the actual preparation is  next to useless in theraputic terms but the associated placebo effect  is a relatively cheap way of avoiding further visits to a GP and wasting valuable time now and in the future.  This is especially true for  many self limiting and other minor conditions where conventional treatments have been tried or wasted and proved no better from the patient's viewpoint.   In any case a High Court decision must have been a very expensive process.  It seems to me that fiddling around with a trivial alleged saving of £92k is a well meaning but negligible adjustment to an endeavour bound to fail.

James Mac, Community pharmacist

This is the most sensible take on this issue I've ever read. Long story short the NHS is willing to spend buckets of public money on consultations, trials etc. to save itself a tiny fraction of its prescribing budget. Then the usual crew dance around celebrating like they just solved all of the NHS's financial problems. Oh, they'll say, don't you care that the NHS is paying for a placebo? And I'll say, no I don't, not prescribing this stuff won't change that either.

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Good call by the courts! About time some items are scrapped off prescriptions & we stop wasting valuable tax payers monies to fund every going trend. If someone wants any of these, please pay for it! 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The whole methodology of how we charge for prescriptions could do with a reimagining in my humble opinion, and I'd love to see how many improvements we could actually make!

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

It's OK, water for injection is still allowed

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