Today is a red letter for NHS homeopathy, democracy and liberty in the UK.
At 10.00 am this morning the MPs of the Science and Technology Committee will issue their report on their view of the provision of homeopathy on the NHS.
Much was said at the hearings of the committee in December but the most memorable, sensible and democratic words were uttered by Health Minister Mike O’Brien who said: ‘We take the view that it is not our job to stop clinicians prescribing these medications if they feel they are appropriate.’ In these words the minister captures the essence of the issue:
- NHS homeopathy is not available ‘on demand’ in the UK. To be seen by a homeopathic specialist, you have to be referred by your GP.
- GPs cannot be forced either to prescribe homeopathy or to refer patients to medical doctors at NHS hospitals specialising in homeopathy; they do so based on their clinical judgement – for which they are fully accountable.
- The amount of money spent on homeopathic medicines on the NHS is a miniscule 0.001% of the total NHS budget spent on medicines.
- It is not the government’s job to say: We know better than you and your GP what is good for you so we will legislate to thwart (rather than dissuade) your GP from treating you homeopathically!
Thank heavens Mike O’Brien understood that any attempts by this committee to bully general practitioners by preventing them prescribing homeopathy or referring patients for homeopathic treatment would be to strike an ugly and low blow against liberty in this country.
The Rt. Hon. Mike O’Brien, a QC as well as being Minister of Health recognised the threat to democracy and liberty being mounted here when he reiterated to the committee that: “cutting the funding (for NHS homeopathic medicines) would be “illiberal” and “a denial of personal choice” and that there is “a significant body of clinicians who take a view that
The committee may well find that the evidence base for homeopathy is not as strong as it could be. But that is no reason at all to attempt to legislate exclusively against NHS homeopathy in this bullying fashion especially as only 12% of all commonly used medical treatments are fully ‘evidence-based’.
So will the report respect the case for democracy and liberty (eloquently stated by the Minister of Health at the hearings) this morning at 10.00am? Or will they treat the fair and noble words of Mike O’Brien with contempt and assert an undemocratic, illiberal and disturbingly authoritarian recommendation?
A significant number of GPs and patients in this country want access to NHS homeopathy. If the Committee of Science and Technology recommends today that it be denied to them, it will not only be a slap in the face for Health Minister, Mike O’Brien but a nasty blow against liberty and democracy in the UK. I sincerely hope this group of MPs remembers the minister’s clear statement, acts honourably and avoids embarrassing itself by insulting democracy and liberty on these shores.
I’ll give my views on what they say in a post this evening.