HOMEOPATHS in Oxford have hit out at county health bosses after they ruled out treating patients with alternative and complementary medicines.
Last week the Government announ-ced homoeopathic medicines would continue to be available on the NHS despite an influential health committee condemning them as medically unproven.
Health minister Anne Milton’s announcement followed the publication of a report by the Commons science and techonology committee which concluded homoeopathic medicine should not be funded on the NHS and called for a ban on publishing medical claims on labels.
Despite the Government decision, NHS Oxfordshire, the county’s primary care trust, said complementary and alternative therapies, including homeopathy, remained a low priority for the trust.
Homeopathy is a form of complementary medicine that aims to trigger the patient’s natural system of healing.
Practitioners prescribe highly diluted pills made of substances which would usually trigger the ailment in a healthy person.
It is typically used to treat recurring infections, skin conditions, chronic fatigue, migraines and stress-related symptoms.
Jeremy Servian, health care priorities practitioner at NHS Oxfordshire, said: “Patients would not normally be offered complementary or alternative therapies in specialist, secondary or primary care settings, due to a lack of conclusive evidence as to effectiveness and limited resources.”
However, Dr Steven Cartwright, who practices homeopathy in Oxford and runs Oxford Homeopathy, an educational forum, said it was short-sighted to say there was inconclusive evidence to support homeopathy.
He added: “There is as yet no explanation as to how homeopathy works, but that will be forthcoming.
“I’m quite confident the evidence is beginning to accumulate, and a few years down the line we will have an explanation as to how it works.”
Susan Irvine, a registered homeopath in Rose Hill, Oxford, said: “This decision limits the possibilities, perhaps, for people who may not be able to have private treatment from a homeopath, and it means that less people will have access to homeopathy.”
However, former MP for Oxford West and Abingdon Dr Evan Harris welcomed the decision.
Dr Harris is a member of the BMA Medical Ethics Committee and was part of the committee that said homeopathy was medically unproven and should not be funded by the NHS.
He said: “People should be able to purchase homeopathy privately in a free country, but, when cash is so tight in the NHS that effective drugs for serious conditions can’t be afforded, it is wrong that taxpayers’ money can be spent by the NHS on an intervention which is recognised by scientific consensus to be no more effective than a sugar pill.”
Andy Lewis, of Oxford Skeptics in the Pub, a group that promotes sceptical thought, also backed the PCT.
He said the Government's ruling to allow homeopathy to continue on the NHS was “indefensible” because it deprived people of “real healthcare”.
In January, Oxford Skeptics in the Pub took part in a national “mass overdose” of homeopathic medicine, in which group members each consumed an entire bottle of pills made up of arsenic, deadly nightshade and sleeping tablets.
No one was affected by the pills.