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Whatever your personal views on whether or not homeopathy works, it cannot be disputed that it has revolutionised the lives of many people. What is fascinating about this article is that Switzerland, known for its neutrality, has come forward to emphatically endorse homeopathic treatment and to state that that it "should be reimbursed by Switzerland's national health insurance program".
Compare this to the UK's House of Commons cross-party Select Committee on Science and Technology which said "homeopathic medicine should no longer be funded on the NHS". They also called for a "ban on the medicines carrying medical claims on their labels." A leading member of The British Medical Association is even reported to have described homeopathy as “witchcraft”!
Despite the Select Committee's recommendation, the UK's Department of Health has decided to continue funding homeopathy:
“We believe in patients being able to make informed choices about their treatments, and in a clinician being able to prescribe the treatment they feel most appropriate in particular circumstances,” said a spokesman.
“Our continued position on the use of homeopathy within the NHS is that the local NHS and clinicians, rather than Whitehall, are best placed to make decisions on what treatment is appropriate for their patients.”
In other words, the Department of Health is supporting homeopathy because Patients should have choice but not because homeopathy works (i.e. efficacious)! Also, instead of openly supporting homeopathy they are passing on the final decision and therefore, responsibility to the clinicians. On the one hand this is good because it is the clinicians and patients who are best placed to make such decisions but on the other hand, it does send out mixed messages - does the UK Government support homeopathy or not?
The Swiss government's enquiry not only included homeopathy but also complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments. It was inevitable that they were going to have to undertake such an enquiry because of the increasingly popularity of these treatments. "Approximately half of the Swiss population have used CAM treatments and value them. Further, about half of Swiss physicians consider CAM treatments to be effective. Perhaps most significantly, 85 percent of the Swiss population wants CAM therapies to be a part of their country's health insurance program" and "more than 50 percent of the Swiss population surveyed prefer a hospital that provides CAM treatments rather to one that is limited to conventional medical care."
Will the UK start to see more CAM treatments in their hospitals? Will there be a demand from our population? How will these treatments fit in with the reforming NHS? Can they be cost effective (or even, cost saving?) or will they only add to the financial burden? So many questions but not much in the way of answers. Perhaps we can only respond "time will tell"?
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