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The NHS is considering ‘blacklisting’ homeopathy – and saving £4,000,000

News reaches us that the NHS is considering blacklisting homeopathy in England, albeit at a glacial pace (with a consultation planned for 2016), by banning General Practitioners from prescribing homeopathic remedies.

I am tempted to suggest that the NHS merely dilutes the funding so much that it becomes more effective, but that would be facetious.

We are told that

…Drugs can be blacklisted if there are cheaper alternatives or if the medicine is not effective…

I am wondering how there could be a cheaper alternative to nothing?

And the Health Secretary, Mr Jeremy Hunt has chimed in, saying:

“when resources are tight we have to follow the evidence”.

One might hope that all clinical practice would follow the evidence whatever the state of resources.

Not all is lost (as it were) for adherents of homeopathy, as the proposal is limited to GP prescribing.

The result of the consultation would affect GP prescribing, but not homeopathic hospitals which account for the bulk of the NHS money spent on homeopathy.

What on Earth is a ‘homeopathic hospital’? A cemetery?

Could this be a small start in the battle against pointless government activity?

46 comments to The NHS is considering ‘blacklisting’ homeopathy – and saving £4,000,000

  • Fred Z

    Don’t touch homeopathy funding.

    It works. It is quite good at killing genetically defective stupid people, and is especially useful in killing the children of stupids before those children also breed.

    Homeopathy: Evolution in action.

    Heartless? Yes. But you know I’m right.

  • The Fyrdman

    Homeopathy Hospital = Public Swimming Baths

  • RAB

    Oh dear oh dear! Chuckles Buggerlugs III will definitely not like this. He is sending a flunky out for a fresh pot of green ink as we speak.

    There is a Homeopathic Hospital here in Bristol, and every time I walk past it I wonder what it’s for, because if you need hospitalizing then clearly Homeopathy isn’t working.

  • Laird

    “Could this be a small start in the battle against pointless government activity?”

    Don’t hold your breath.

  • Stuck-Record

    What on Earth is a ‘homeopathic hospital’?

    The sea.

  • Shotover

    You are forgetting the placebo effect. Many patients feel better from this effect, despite their treatment being of no value in controlled trials. The important question is how we continue to avail ourselves of the placebo effect, without being held hostage by charlatans.

  • Paul Marks

    A lot of good points here Mr Ed.

  • pst314

    “What on Earth is a ‘homeopathic hospital’?”

    A tiny hospital made out of Lego’s, which your homeopathic doctor allows you to look at for five seconds…through a telescope…from two miles away…once a month.

  • Mr Ed


    I would simply note that the advocates of homeopathy do not call it placebopathy or such other term and state that they simply offer placebos.

    And have they tested homeopathy against placebo treatments? What if the placebo contains more of the ‘active’ ingredient* than the homeopathic treatment?

    *Although the nature of the homeopathic treatment is that the ‘ingredient’ isn’t there, by definition and dilution, so its the one thing not used for sure in the treatment, unless its a trace contaminant, in which case the homeopathy clearly would be flawed on its own terms.

    Perhaps we offer orally administered ‘nanobots’ as a placebo, programmed to head for the source of the ill and destroy it, 😉 and then sell the patient the Leaning Tower of Pisa or other monument to suit taste.

  • Paul

    A homeopathic hospital https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0 courtesy of Mitchell and Webb.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I like to point out that the ‘no detectable level’ standard for carcinogens in US law is a tacit endorsement of homeopathy.

  • Phil B

    Two words:

    Steve Jobs.

    IF he had resorted to conventional medical treatment a bit earlier than he did instead of touchy-feely, love Gaia in accordance with the moon in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars with Aquarius rising (or is that falling?) he might still be in the land of the living.

  • Mr Ed

    IF he had resorted to…

    The eternal and fatal allure of bullshit!

  • Martha

    I’ll ask my druid to cast a spell on these fools. They are doomed.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I heard it was the carrot juice wot done it….

  • Andrew

    But what about those who want homeopathy?

    Whether it works is irrelevant.

    They’re being forced to pay for the NHS too.

  • Mr Ed

    Indeed Andrew,

    But now they are paying less (or rather, the State is borrowing less). Any reduction in the scope and cost of the State is to be welcomed.

    And they can have less homeopathy, so good for them.

  • Martha

    Andrew, I could be mistaken but I think that if you get a ruptured appendix, you would want proper medical care. Whether it works appears to be crucial in real life.

  • bloke in spain

    Homeopathy? Privatise it.
    With homeopathic financing.
    With £10 start a company. Issue 1000 1p shares.
    Take one share of the company & use that to capitalise a second company.
    Repeat 100 times
    There is now enough wealth to finance not only free homeopathy for everyone but the entire National Health Service.
    (Any resemblance of the above to current government financial policies is purely coincidental)

  • Andrew

    But now they are paying less (or rather, the State is borrowing less). Any reduction in the scope and cost of the State is to be welcomed.

    As you clarify, they certainly are not paying less. All that’s happened is they’ve had their choices reduced because our glorious leaders have decided they know what’s best. Paying the same for less and less might be a reduction in the state, but without that saving being passed on to the tax payer it doesn’t give them any more freedom. At best, we can hope it wakes people up to the idea that maybe the state isn’t their friend.

    Andrew, I could be mistaken but I think that if you get a ruptured appendix, you would want proper medical care. Whether it works appears to be crucial in real life.

    I don’t understand, which of my points are you refuting?

    You seem to be saying that because there are cases where most people probably aren’t going to want homeopathy, therefore no-one wants it, but that’s obvious nonsense. So I must be missing something, especially as you felt smug enough to state “I could be mistaken”.

  • Martha

    Perhaps there is a misunderstanding indeed.

    The reason why “They’re being forced to pay for the NHS” is because there are medical practices that actually merit the name and, consequently, are factually necessary (unlike homeopathy). Thus, whether something works IS the only factor that is ultimately relevant.

    I could be mistaken, of course, and “liking” might override need.

    Might I ask, were one to be taken to an emergency room with a ruptured appendix, is it legally possible to refuse a proper medical procedure in favor of homeopathy? As in, my child will not undergo surgery, please bring in the herbal preparations.

  • Andrew

    Perhaps there is a misunderstanding indeed.

    I still don’t understand, which of my points are you refuting?

  • Fred the Fourth

    The homeopathy thing is a distraction. As in everything else, in health care the decision about what to pay for is made by a) the guy with the money, and/or b) the guy with the power of the state/gun. In a sane world, most of these decisions would be being made by a patient, on his own behalf, with his own money.

  • Martha

    Those that want homeopathy are being forced to pay for NHS because NHS provides services they actually need, regardless of what they want.

  • Andrew

    Those that want homeopathy are being forced to pay for NHS because NHS provides services they actually need, regardless of what they want.

    You’re offering a reason for one of my points, not a rebuttal. And a false reason at that, people are forced to pay for the NHS because of the government. It has nothing to do with need.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Those that want homeopathy are being forced to pay for NHS because over half a century ago a bunch of people were persuaded that the Britain NEEDED nationalised health care, and since some of them had the power to get it done, they got it done. It has to be paid for, so the people of Britain, including those who want homeopathy, get to pay for it whether they want it or not, approve of it or not, can get better medical care elsewhere or not (I understand there are still private practices available, for those who can afford them).

    Make no mistake. Steve Jobs had every right to try to cure his cancer by relying on carrot juice (or whatever else — even going out every night to sit baying at the moon). Just because it was foolish doesn’t give anybody the right to force him to undergo mainstream cancer treatment. People don’t (rightly) get to force other people to do what they, the first bunch, have decided is in their, the second bunch’s, “best interest” — not even when they’re correct.

  • Martha

    Are you trying to argue that NHS provides nothing of need but only things of want and consequently anything desired merits NHS coverage, Andrew?

    Jobs was a moron on many accounts, including his health. Yet he has no right to force his children (or anyone under his responsibility, such as a disabled or elderly parent) to die of cancer on account of his idiocy.

    And, btw, I don’t endorse anything nationalized. Quite the opposite. Having said that, it is nonsensical to claim that something is entirely useless because it is operated, even monopolized, by the government. Mismanagement, however, is generally an appropriate description… and a good example is the inclusion of homeopathy in a health insurance.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Hm, so my last sentence above raises this question: What about the “interventions” that psychotherapists, clergymen, social workers, and some portion of the public in general encourage the families or intimates of people with various addictions (especially alcoholism) to make? Like, Dad comes home smashed out of his skull for the zillionth time, and the wife & kiddies decide enough is enough and get somebody to haul him off for a week or six to an alcoholism sanitarium and treatment center.

    Or, say there are no wife & kiddies. Guy’s a bachelor, not much of a neighbor, keeps to himself. But the man next door (no busybody he, but still…) is worried the gent will set the house afire or do a William Holden or something, so he goes on over and grapples the potted one into the car, and it’s off to the treatment center. Hm, well, in this case pure libertarianism would say leave him alone, unless perhaps there really is a particular reason to think he really might burn down the neighborhood, or blow it up.

    But the first case is different, in that one could argue that (at least sometimes) self-defense is an issue. But what about Mom and the kids defending themselves against emotional pain, even if Dad wouldn’t hurt a fly, not even when sloshed. It does seem that emotional problems aren’t part of the libertarian calculus, and it sure does make it easier to figure out what the rules should be if you leave them out. Slippery slopes and all that. And what to one person has all the emotional force of being in the path of a wet noodle may strike another as a bowling ball dropped on his head from the 49th floor.

    . . .

    Assuming the wife & kiddies, heck, if Dad is the legal property owner, it’s not clear from pure libertarian theory that they even have the right to make him go sleep it off outside.

  • Andrew

    Are you trying to argue that NHS provides nothing of need but only things of want and consequently anything desired merits NHS coverage, Andrew?

    I’m not “trying” to do anything, Martha. I clearly stated my argument whereas you weren’t even willing to tell me what you were rebutting.

    Instead, you seem fixated on the idea that homeopathy’s worthless and people need proper medical care. And I agree that is the best path. But I wasn’t arguing otherwise.

    This post was about the NHS not offering homeopathy as a good thing. I put forward a different viewpoint – that it was restricting the choice of those that want homeopathic remedies.

    But if you do want to go down the straw man route: To survive, humans need water, food, shelter, air, and sleep. They don’t need healthcare. If they did, we would never have got to the point we’re at now. So no, the NHS does not offer anything of “need”.

    Having said that, it is nonsensical to claim that something is entirely useless because it is operated, even monopolized, by the government.

    Who made this claim? What are you rebutting? Why not just respond to what’s been written?

  • This is a ludicrous argument. Whilst I am no fan of the NHS it is not an embellishment. Healthcare (however funded) does save lives. Saved me once. And that was the NHS. It could have been a different provider but it wasn’t. And I wasn’t in a position to choose. Healthcare is a need. How it is provided and funded is a different issue.

  • Alisa

    Julie, in the case of the wife and kids, there is a contract (written or not) between the man and his wife. These contracts may and do differ between different couples, and the couples themselves very often disagree on the precise nature of the particular contract binding them, but that is beside the point.

    With regard to the neighbor, it is up to the alcoholic to decide whether he is a victim of unsolicited intrusion, or the object of an attempt by an angel to save him from himself – and to press charges or buy an expensive gift (not booze!) accordingly. It really is that simple, in my view.

  • Laird

    When you have nationalized health care (or, indeed, nationalized anything), issues such as this are inevitable. As with any good, there is finite supply and infinite demand. It’s simply an allocation problem, and the decision as to who gets care, and of what sort, has to be made somehow. In a free market that decision is driven principally by economic factors; in an unfree one (such as the NHS and, increasingly, the US) it is driven by political factors. But it’s always going to be some mixture of those two; there is no other option. That’s why you see decisions made to deny care (other than palliative and hospice care) to the terminally ill and extremely aged, and why in the US we have (or will have) what Obamacare opponents refer to derisively as “death panels”. It’s an allocation of resources by non-economic means, and it is necessary if the economic option is off the table.

    The political process (which is exactly how this NHS decision was made) has concluded that (1) homeopathy does not produce sufficiently positive results as to be worth expending limited resources on (the scientific rationale), and (2) the advocates for this particular type of health care lack the political power to resist that result (the practical reality). It is an entirely rational decision (from the decision-makers’ point of view), and fundamentally a necessary one. The fact that those who would like to receive homeopathic care are denied it while nonetheless paying into the system is completely irrelevant. We all pay into the government, and it does lots of things to which we object and fails to do lots of things we would like (those specific “things” are, of course, matters of individual preference). Once the money goes into the government’s coffers you have no further claim on it, however they choose to spend (or waste) it. That’s life; deal with it.

  • Cal

    >Could this be a small start in the battle against pointless government activity?

    Yeah, right.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, thanks for the reply. In practice you’re right, of course. I really was interested in how libertarian (political) theory would decide these issues. (I suppose I know how Walter Block would — in theory — answer.)

    In the case of the Family Man, the guy IS (by the hypothesis) the property owner; I suppose in lib. theory the issue then becomes whether the rest of the family can argue the NIoF (“Non-Aggression) principle, assuming he hasn’t actually attacked them or given serious intent of a threat to do so. In the broader moral philosophy, there are further considerations, such as “do we want to put up with this any more?” or “I can’t stand seeing him do this to himself!” and more besides.

    The point about contracts, express or implied: Do people address beforehand the issue of what will happen if one of them goes off the rails (in any of many ways) at some point during the marriage? I don’t recall any discussion express or implied, let alone written into a formal contract, between my Honey and me before we were married as to consequences of boozing, skirt-chasing, or other bad behaviour. (I will say, my Honey just wasn’t the type, which was obvious to me from Day One.) We also didn’t have any agreement as to who would change the light-bulbs and who would take out the garbage.

    Anyway, thanks again for your comment. It’s tangential to the present discussion, but the thought did occur to me when I wrote that nobody had the right to force Mr. Jobs to add a little something to the carrot juice regimen, even if it were done in order to save him from himself.

  • Julie near Chicago

    …Because in today’s culture, people DO seem to think they have the “right” to do these “forced interventions.”

    But strictly speaking … especially if the “intervention” is after the fact, so that there’s no argument that at the time of the intervention, the person was incompetent.

    (So now, we could investigate whether Mr. Jobs was “incompetent” when choosing his “treatment.” Should the State have hauled him off to Sloan-Kettering or someplace and put him in the locked cancer ward? This is why we follow out these arguments, to see whether, when, or where the Slippery Slope begins, and how severe it is.)

  • Alisa

    Julie, the contract may be an unwritten or even an unspoken one – I mentioned that, I think. Two people deciding to live together, including marriage, have certain expectations of each other, and hopefully at least some of those are known to both parties. Of course in the course of their life together misunderstandings arise on both sides, and these get to be resolved by various methods (like talking and listening and compromising), or the partnership may end up dissolved.

    Regarding the Property Owner, it is all about the results, i.e. whether the PO is happy with the result – as in ‘thank you for saving my life’, or unhappy with them – as in ‘I’m trying to kill myself, and who are you to get in the way?’

    And what good is theory if it has no connection to practical reality?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, of course theory must conform to practical reality — else it’s mere rationalization at best, and in the realm of fantasy. But as I often say, “Life is an engineering discipline–there are always trade-offs™,” and it’s important to know where a given theory (or principle) runs out when it hits up on another one. (“I don’t care if this IS your house, that doesn’t give you the right to break my Grandma’s teapot in it!”) In this case, more comes into play than just libertarian theory (principle), which is an applied theory and stands in relation to moral philosophy as applied mathematics does to “pure math.”

    So my interest today was, in particular, how far libertarian principle could go in deciding whether we may force Jobs to mainstream cancer treatment, and what are the implications of our conclusion about that to whether we have the right to force “interventions” on people against their will — and, of course, vice-versa.


  • Guy Herbert (London)

    The biggest, plushest NHS homeopathic hospital is in Queen Square WC1. It wouldn;t be all that surprising to learn it accounts for most of the millions spent. The refurbishment of the building would be off that particular balance sheet, I’m guessing. It used to be called the “Royal London Homeopathic Hospital”, now it is “Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine” – one hopes because UCH (which now administers it) is rightly ashamed of backing homeopathy; one fears because they have added venerable juju, shamanism, Salafist and mediaeval Chinese medicine to the magic-water cure invented out of thin air in the 18th C.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Homeopathy might work by placebo-power, but so does a lot of modern medicine, including surgery! I read of an operation that used to be done to relieve the veins around the heart- until they found out that patients were responding to the treatment, even if the operation did not go all the way! Just going through the motions seemed to set off the patients own powers of healing.

  • Alisa

    I understand that, Julie. It’s just (with all due respect and no offense etc.), I am simply not interested in Libertarian or any other-labeled theory. I am guided solely by the basic value of human life and individual ownership thereof, and I prefer to derive my other principles from that basic premise. So, sorry for jumping into a different discussion yet again 🙁

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Alisa, here we are, trying to arrive at a Libertarian consensus, and you come up with your heretical views! You might not be included in the group-hug at the end, if you keep this up! I know you’re an individual, and our group motto, taken from the Life of Brian, is “We’re All Individuals!” Being Individuals together. Get the picture?

  • Mitch

    Homeopathy is especially reprehensible when practiced by bartenders.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, perhaps we should drop this issue for the nonce and move on to more easily-metabolised food for thought, or for pigging out on, such as pancakes. Or, for that matter, falafel, when one can find good falafel, which in Chicago proper I suppose I could, but Chicago food is a little risky nowadays as the entire city glows in the dark. If you have read H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Colour Out of Space” (his best, to my mind–wonderful! You will never sleep again) you will know what I mean. 😉

    Pizza is always a winner too, if one can find a really good one. When I was in college we lived on Garbage Pizza, which had Everything on it. (In those days ham, Canadian bacon, bacon, pineapple, and barbecue sauce were not found on pizza, but everything else was, in abundance. Garbage pizza is the real reason why The Good Old Days are quite rightly considered to be the years 1961-1965.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, one last thing, seriously — you wrote,

    “I am guided solely by the basic value of human life and individual ownership thereof, and I prefer to derive my other principles from that basic premise.”

    Yes indeed, and I would be the last one to disagree with you there; it’s my starting premise too (in most discussions anyway, including this one), whether explicit or tacit. But the principles derived therefrom ARE the principles that constitute Libertarian theory (such as it is), and the issue about “interventions” is like the issue raised in Natalie’s “Thinking Alone on a Mountainside” — what does one do in Case X, in practice, given the principles derived from “self-ownership” + “the basic value of human life”?

    And now I really will go back to contemplating the pleasures of the table. Bon appétit!

  • Alisa

    Yes Julie, but rather than going through complex theories, doesn’t it make more sense to go straight to first principles and see if one can get any help there?

    Now with regard to pizza, I must say that you are – again – wrong. Wrong, I tell you! Pizza toppings (and yes, that includes cheese) are like government agencies on top of society: the less, the better. There!

    Bon appétit 😀

  • Julie near Chicago

    (To me, theory is what happens while going from the basics to wherever you end up.)

    Be that as it may. To be perfectly honest, with the possible exception of Nicky’s Garbage Pizza of my youth (I think I vaguely remember having one once. A long time ago. Wonder where I put it?) — I say, with that possible exception my hands-down favorite is bacon-and-onion pizza. Easy sauce, ditto cheese.

    We really must get together soon and taste-check our preferences in re pizza. It would be dreadful to make a mistake, say thinking that one prefers pizza with breadfruit and poi, whereas what one really likes is good ol’ sausage, easy on the cheeze. 😉