Homeopathy is a holistic system of complementary medicine which seeks to treat people with a ‘like cures like’ approach. In this view, treating people with small diluted traces of a substance that causes symptoms may help to cure those symptoms.
At the moment, people from Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire who meet an agreed set of criteria can be referred by their GPs to the Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine for NHS-funded homeopathy.
Why are changes being considered?
We are reviewing NHS-funded homeopathy treatment because national guidance has suggested that homeopathy should not be funded routinely by the NHS and we want to make sure we are using our budget wisely.
Some people report benefits from homeopathy and some studies back this up. Other studies and reviews of research suggest that these impacts may be because people believe the treatment will make a difference (known as a ‘placebo effect’) or because they receive holistic consultations. After weighing up all the evidence and undertaking a national consultation, including with medical experts, in 2017 NHS England recommended that GPs should not prescribe homeopathic treatments.
We are the last CCG in England to routinely fund homeopathy so we want to make sure we are in line with national practice and good evidence, as well as meeting the needs of the widest range of local people.
In 2017/18, the NHS spent £109,476 on homeopathy consultations for 41 people from Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (about £2,670 per person per year). In a time of financial challenges, the NHS needs to make sure that all of its resources are used to best effect.
What are the options?
We are considering three options for homeopathy:
- Option 1: The homeopathy service would continue as currently, with the NHS funding homeopathy for anyone referred by their GP who meets agreed criteria.
- Option 2: The criteria for homeopathy would change, with fewer people qualifying for treatment or fewer appointments per person funded.
- Option 3: Homeopathy would not be routinely available. It would be funded by the NHS in rare situations following review of individual cases referred by a clinician to an Individual Funding Request Panel.
In all three of these options homeopathy would continue to be available via the NHS. The difference is whether homeopathy would be routinely available to many people or whether it would be reserved for special cases.
What are the next steps?
In summer 2017, we asked local people and organisations for feedback to help shape and refine the options, with more than 2000 people providing ideas. From January to April 2018, we formally consulted about these three options. This included discussions with 11 people using homeopathy services and the organisation providing services as well as comments received from 928 people online and by email.
In summer 2018 we are weighing up the options. Factors being considered include clinical evidence about the safety and effectiveness of each option; feedback from local people, organisations and staff; the cost of each option; and the alternatives and opportunity costs.
If we decide to change whether homeopathy is routinely available through the NHS, people already receiving treatment will have an opportunity to complete their current cycle of care and guidance about alternatives will be provided for patients and clinicians
Further details of the proposals are available in the summary document below.