Tom Whipple

The Guardian

To MPs, Early Day Motions must be much like street petitions. Signing costs nothing, almost certainly changes nothing, and is the easiest way to get rid of someone annoying. So perhaps it was unfair that I individually emailed each of the 206 MPs who signed Early Day Motion 1240: supporting NHS homeopathic hospitals.

EDM 1240 called for more government backing for homeopathy on the NHS, stating that complementary medicine, and by implication homeopathy, “has the potential to offer clinically-effective solutions to conditions such as eczema, depression, insomnia, allergy, and irritable bowel syndrome”. My question was simple: what evidence did each MP use in supporting that statement?

The replies varied from the pragmatic to the genuinely puzzling. What few contained was evidence.Lembit Opik argued – in an admirably bold deviation from accepted medical practice – that taxpayers should pay for treatments until they are shown to fail, rather than the other way round. “The onus is less on homeopathy to prove itself than on its detractors to prove it necessarily does not work,” he said.

Harry Cohen, MP for Leyton and Wanstead, joined him at the more eccentric end of the spectrum by implying that conventional medical treatments were improperly tested (he would not say which ones) and referring to Prince Charles as someone “who has made a very strong case” for homeopathy.

Many were perfectly reasonable though. Some emails bounced and fewer than half replied, but John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, spoke for many when he said: “Even if you take the perspective that it only acts like a psychological treatment, then it is effective”.

However, the motion did not say homeopathy was a good placebo. It said homeopathy offers clinically-effective solutions to named conditions. A claim that the UK Society of Homeopaths does not even allow its own practitioners to make – its code of practice states a homeopath is required to “avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or in writing) implying cure of any named disease” .Why the controversy? Homeopathy involves treating people with chemicals diluted in water until not a single molecule remains – based on the idea that the water will “remember” the chemical (but not everything else that has previously been dissolved in it). Scientifically speaking, that’s lunacy. So some pretty powerful evidence is required.

Which is where a second school of thought came in. Around half the respondents spoke of constituents who had told them of the benefits they had gained from treatment – an understandable parliamentary basis for supporting homeopathy.

But medical science has moved on from considering anecdotes to be evidence. Instead it tests thousands of people, and looks for a result better than that expected by taking a sugar pill alone. It would take a particularly stubborn contrariness not to see the logic in that.

Research has been done. Steve Webb, the only MP actually to cite published papers, proved that. The most authoritative of his papers, which included one that just asked homeopathy patients if they felt better, reached the underwhelming conclusion that there was merit in further research. It also said “we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition.”

That was 1997. Since then there has been further research, and it has again shown homeopathy to be no better than a placebo. Homeopathists may dispute the results, but they offer little in return. How much more research is needed? 200 years after Samuel Hahnemann first dissolved Peruvian tree bark in water to cure malaria, there is still nothing concrete to back up homoeopathists’ extraordinary claims.

So despite what Peter Luff, MP for Mid Worcestershire, suggested, there is no conspiracy by “big pharma” to keep homeopathy down. If homeopathy were proved to work then the one certainty, aside from having to rewrite all known chemistry, is that drug companies would find a way to make money out of it. There is no conspiracy by science either – the first ambitious researcher to explain how distilled water could have a molecular memory would be guaranteed the Nobel Prize.

Science is not just another pressure group for an MP to deal with. It is not a point of view or political persuasion. It is the best tool we have for understanding the physical world: when we abandon it, we abandon logic. And if our elected representatives will not respond to logic, then who will?


This year 206 MPs signed a motion advocating support for NHS homeopathic hospitals (the motion, and signatories, are here). I sent them all the following email: 

You were one of over 200 MPs who signed a recent early day motion recommending greater support of homeopathic hospitals on the NHS. The motion stated that homeopathic treatments offer clinically-effective solutions to common health problems such as “eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome”. I would be most grateful if you could provide me with the evidence you used in deciding to support that statement.   

Fewer than half replied, and some of the emails bounced, but the responses are shown below. Occasionally I asked for further clarification, in which case the whole correspondence is shown. 


The short answer is from constituents who have benefited from such treatments and from constituents who are practitioners.

Yours sincerely

Richard Benyon


Dear Mr. Whipple,

Thank you for your e-mail of 22nd October about EDM 1240.

My support for homeopathic hospitals is based upon the experience of my constituents as recounted to me.

With best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Chope OBE MP


There is a lot of evidence, and traditionally it has had very successful outcomes. Myself and my wife have benefited. Prince Charles has made a very strong case for it too. The implication of your comment could also be ascribed to any number of mainstream medicines – tests on animals are not necessarily appropriate for humans, for example. 

Harry Cohen MP

I responded

Dear Mr Cohen, thank you very much for your quick response. Please could you clarify your comment regarding mainstream medicines though? Are you implying that mainstream medicines are not properly tested?

And could you also provide some of the positive trials/evidence for homeopathy?

Many thanks,

Tom Whipple

He responded

It’s not my EDM. I’m happy with the evidence I have encountered. I suggest you contact the main sponsors of the EDM. Harry Cohen MP

Three weeks later, Mr Cohen forwarded on an extensive email from the British Homeopathic Association, appended at the end of this list


Mr. Derek Conway TD MP thanks you for your email and refers you to the sponsor of the Early Day Motion.

I responded

Dear Mr Conway,

Thank you for your response. I have also contacted the sponsor of the Motion, but presume that – since you signed it – you also have the necessary evidence for justifying putting your name to the EDM? If so, I would be grateful to hear it.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Whipple

He responded

I am content to let the sponsor speak for supporters, you will have to be too

Derek Conway


“My evidence for signing the Early Day Motion was a close relative who has, over very many years, found homeopathic remedies to be of help in the treatment of a number of the health problems mentioned for both herself and her children”


Dear Mr Whipple

Thank you for your email.  My experience comes from a very good homeopathic GP surgery in Stroud which has a good reputation for treating health problems that traditional medicine has failed to treat.

Yours sincerely

David Drew


Dear Tom Whipple

Thanks for your email.  I support the EDM because I have been a beneficiary of homeopathy medicine. Sometimes the drugs don’t work.  The NHS has been treating me for eczema for more years than I can remember without total success. 

I do believe one aspect of getting well is that people believe that they will get well.  It is not the only aspect and as the health budget has almost doubled in real terms I believe there is a place for homeopathic medicines for those who wish to use them.

With best wishes and thanks very much for writing.

Frank Field


Dear Mr Whipple,

The question is, did the improvement in a patient’s condition coincide with a homeopathic treatment?  In the case of two conditions (eczema and chronic fatigue) constituents are convinced that there was a clear cause and effect.  I am not qualified nor do I have the time to determine whether this could be scientifically proven to be down to the clinical effect of the treatment or due to some psycho somatic effect.

The primary purpose behind adding my name to this EDM is to offer an alternative treatment where conventional medicine has failed providing that it can be clinically proven that the homeopathic option will not cause harm.

If the treatment helps some patients then within reasonable financial constraints and ensuring that decisions are fully informed then patients with the support of their GP could be prescribed the homeopathic option.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew George MP


Dear Mr Whipple

Thank you for your email about EDM 1240.  You misquote from the EDM.  It says that Complementary medicine has the “potential” to offer clinically effective etc.

I base my support on the letter I have recieved from constituents who have benefitted from this type of treatment.  In particular the Scarborougfh Hospital pain clinic which uses acupuncture to great effect.  This is under threat due to cuts at the trust.

Also there are very many people who use various types of manipulative treatments for back pain which has been effective when all the more convential treatment can offer is higher and higher doses of pain killers.

My decision to sign the EDM (before by front bench appointment) was based on the experiences of constituents who wrote to me with personal evidence of the benefits with pain.

Best wishes

Robert Goodwill

Robert Goodwill MP for Scarborough & Whitby


 Dear Tom,

Thankfully I do not need any scientific qualifications to answer this – not least because I do not have any any.

I have always used the genuine experiences of my constituents as the best guide to what works, and what is good, for the people I represent. Homeopathic medicine is good example, as I well understand the skepticism of some people – particularly scientists. However, over the many years I have represented people in Portsmouth, either as a Councillor, or as a Member of Parliament, I have heard countless stories about how alternative treatments have benefited them.

As far as I am concerned that was all the evidence I needed to sign EDM 1240.

Best wishes Mike Hancock MP


 A good question, one that it is right to answer and one which I don’t have a proper answer to.  In part that is because in common with other MPs I don’t spend a lot of time researching EDMs before signing them.

What I can say is that I am aware of constituents who are of the view that they have been cured by a homeopathic remedy. Even if you take the perspective that it only acts much like a psychological treatment if then it is effective in those situations. 

I am, therefore, comfortable in accepting – whilst fully understanding that the theory behind homeopathy is not accepted by mainstream medicine – that there is a role for homeopathy within the health service.


 Dear Tom

Thanks for your email. In fact the Motion David signed did not state that homeopathic treatments offer clinically effective solutions, it said that complementary medicine had the potential to. The full text of the motion is below:

“That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets”.

Best wishes


Alice Douglas
Press Officer to David Howarth, MP for Cambridge I responded

Dear Alice, that’s very interesting. I must confess I had not considered that possibility. All the other MPs I have emailed believed that an Early Day Motion that calls for greater support of homeopathic hospitals would, in its supporting statements, also be talking about homeopathy. However, I now see you are correct – the key phrase does indeed only refer to complementary medicine in general.


Which raises a whole different set of questions. Since Mr Howarth signed a motion he believed claimed complementary medicine had the potential to cure various named conditions, could he possibly name the specific treatments that cure each of the named conditions, and provide the evidence he used in making such a judgement?


Many thanks,


Tom Whipple

She responded

Dear Tom


I’ve spoken to David about the EDM and he says:


“For many people, especially those with chronic conditions or those which do not have or are not responding well to conventional medicine, some complementary therapies have proved effective. Some of the evidence for some complementary therapies and the way in which they work can be disputed, and some may be done to a modified placebo effect. In this particular case, in an NHS hospital, complementary medicine will be used in addition to not instead of conventional treatments.”




Thank you for approaching me as one of the Members of Parliament who signed in support of Early Day Motion 1240 titled ‘NHS Homeopathic Hospitals.’

When I look to sign EDM’s I always approach them with an open mind and base the decision on which to sign them on common sense. Regardless of whom the sponsor is my, conclusion to either support it or not is based solely on the merits evident.

In the case of this EDM I was able to rely on the excellent research done on behalf of the British Homeopathic Association and Faculty of Homeopathy.

Whilst more research is needed there is a strong evidence base and patients who have experienced homeopathy show high levels of satisfaction. I believe patients should be offered choice within the NHS. Homeopathy in many cases is a form of healthcare that very effectively and, cheaply meets many health needs.

 The homeopathic hospitals became part of the NHS when it was founded in 1948 and we were given a commitment by Nye Bevan that homeopathy would continue to be provided in the NHS as long as there were doctors willing to provide it and patients wanting it. Both of these are still the case.

 If it were not for the fact the staff at the NHS homeopathic hospitals are all conventionally trained doctors and nurses, I could understand where the sceptics might have a point. These health care professionals have taken it upon themselves to seek additional training in homeopathy and other complementary therapies.

Based on their conventional training they are extremely well placed to assess when homeopathy or other therapies are most appropriate for their patients and when conventional treatment is needed. I am confident that this form of complementary medicine provision is the safe and properly regulated. I have not seen any strong evidence for either reducing the roll homeopathy plays with in the NHS or removing homeopathy in entirety. 

I hope this letter provides you with the information you were seeking. Please contact my office if you require any further information.

Yours sincerely

 Brian Jenkins MP-Tamworth


 Dear Tom  thank you for your email there were many different aspects including evidence from constituents and personal experiences if you would like to meet to discuss this I would be happy to do so Yours Sincerely Lee


 Ask any well trained pharmacist about the role of certain (but not all) complementary and homeopathic medicines.  Don’t fall for Big Pharma’s self-interested line that only modern science has the answers.  And by the way, there’s also the small matter of choice and personal freedom!

 Peter Luff
Member of Parliament for Mid Worcestershire
Chairman, DTI Select Committee


 Dear Tom,

Thanks for taking an interest in homeopathic treatments.  Here is why I have chosen to support the campaign. 

Firstly, a study conducted by Bristol Hospital involved a large sample of individuals, and appears to have demonstrated a measurable improvement in the quality of life of patients who turned to homeopathic treatments after “conventional” medical interventions had not succeeded in achieving an improvement.  This is one of the most persuasive individual studies.

Secondly, homeopathic treatments are abundant in my constituency, and maintain a sufficiently large following to sustain the sector.  I believe that the perspective of patients must therefore be positive towards the methodology.  There is at the very least apperception that homeopathic treatments are worth trying, and this leads to the continuing operation of a large number of practitioners.  So patients think it works.

Thirdly, it is an act of cynicism to assume that homeopathic medicine is necessarily ineffective, simply on the basis of its variance from conventional medicine.  The onus is less on homeopathy to prove itself than on its detractors to prove it necessarily does not work.  Such research may indeed exist, but I haven’t seen it.  They would also have to show why they believe that interventions which may to some extent operate at a psychological level have no merit.  It is well known that mental outlook can be a significant factor in a person’s recovery times from an illness.  If homeopathy works in conjunction with this phenomenon, there is much less mystique to it than those who decry it infer.

for more information you’ll find a very comprehensive summary of the case for homeopathy at

Hope this helps.  Finally, may I suggest you try some homeopathic intervention at some point.  Whatever the result, I’m sure it will be an interesting experiment.

All the best,

Lembit Öpik
Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire


 Dear Tom, personal experience.

 Richard Ottaway MP
Croydon South


 My evidence was simply 15 years of anecdotal reports from many, many constituents

 Not scientific, but persuasive


 Thanks for your email and apologies for not replying sooner.

 This was based on the experience of a number of constituents over the years.  I hope this is helpful.

 Best wishes

 Nigel Waterson
MP for Eastbourne

 Shadow Minister for Pensions
Conservative Spokesman for Older People


 Dear Mr Whipple,

Thank you for your email.

My reason for supporting the EDM is that there would appear to be good reason to keep an open mind about homeopathy. While some disparage it completely, others have found evidence that it has beneficial effects, even if the reasons for these is not always known. I appreciate that there are strong lobbies for and against homeopathy, both including people who are well informed and educated in the relevant sciences.

A number of papers were passed to me by constituents supporting homeopathy, and I have listed these references below for you to explore if you wish. If you cannot obtain any of these, do let me know.


Steve Webb MP

Reilly, D. – The Evidence for Homeopathy, published by Adhom, Glasgow (
Chatfield, K. & Relton, C. – Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? A full critique of the article by Sahng et al (Lancet 2005;366 (9487):726-733)
Spence, D. & Thompson, E. – Homeopathic Treatment for Chronic Disease: A 6-Year, University-Hospital Outpatient Observational Study – Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, Vol 11 No 5, 2005, pp793-798
Reilly, D. et al – Is evidence for homeopathy reproducible? – The Lancet, Vol 344, 10 Dec 1994
Reilly, D. et al – Is homeopathy a placebo response? – The Lancet, 18 Oct 1986
Day, C E I – Control of stillbirths in pigs using homeopathy – Veterinary Record (1984) 114, 216
Kleijnen, J. et al – Clinical trials of homeopathy – BMJ, Vol 302, 9 Feb 1991
Linde, K. et al – Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials – The Lancet, Vol 350, 20 Sept 1997, pp 834-43


 Email sent by British Homeopathic Association to all supporters of the motion: 

NHS homeopathic hospitals briefing from the British Homeopathic Association

 Thank you for signing EDM 1240 which has so far received 206 signatures, suggesting widespread acknowledgment across the UK of the effectiveness and excellence of homeopathic care and treatment in the NHS homeopathic hospitals.

As homeopathy is constantly the subject of rich debate we thought you would appreciate some more information about why patients value this form of treatment so much. A number of recent PQs are shown below in the appendix.


The five NHS homeopathic hospitals have been part of the NHS since 1948

They are staffed entirely by conventionally trained doctors and nurses who have additional training in homeopathy and other complementary therapies

Patients are referred in the normal way by their GP or specialist

For many patients, the homeopathic hospitals are a last resort after conventional medicine has failed to help them

There is growing evidence of the effectiveness of complementary medicine

Early Day Motion – 1240

That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets.

Signatures (206)

 The NHS homeopathic hospitals – key points

 Homeopathic hospitals and the NHS

Homeopathic hospitals have been part of the NHS since 1948 and an assurance was given at that time that this would remain the position as long as patients wanted homeopathic treatment and doctors were prepared to provide it.

 NHS service provision

NHS homeopathic hospitals are located in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Liverpool and Tunbridge Wells – all are part of NHS Trusts.  Patients are referred to the homeopathic hospitals, funded through their PCT, primarily by their GPs but also through other NHS referrals. 

 NHS homeopathic hospitals are staffed by conventionally trained, statutorily regulated health professionals who have received additional training in homeopathy and other complementary therapies. They offer patient-centred treatments that are safe, clinically- and cost-effective and which often avert multiple referrals for conventional treatments that many patients find ineffective or cause unacceptable side effects.

 Patient-centred care

NHS homeopathic hospitals offer high quality patient-centred care. A person’s ‘quality of life’ and ‘well-being’ are significant to diagnosis and treatment and are important outcomes of the treatment given. 

 High level of patient satisfaction

Evidence-based practice depends upon effective audit and clinical outcome evaluation. One of the most comprehensive clinical outcome studies of patient satisfaction is an analysis of over 6,500 outpatient consultations at the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital from November 1997 to October 2003.  More than 70% of follow-up patients reported clinical improvement following homeopathic treatment. Almost all the patients in the analysis had previously received conventional medical intervention at the secondary care level and had either failed to show significant improvement or had been unable to tolerate the medication prescribed.

 Effectiveness gaps

The Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital (RLHH) has identified gaps in current health provision and developed treatment pathways which give PCTs good value for money. These ‘effectiveness gaps’ are clinical conditions for which conventional treatments are not fully effective. The most frequent of these, reported by over 90% of London GPs, is musculoskeletal problems, followed by depression, eczema, chronic pain and irritable bowel syndrome. There is growing evidence that complementary medicine provides safe and effective solutions to many of these problems.

 Evidence base

The evidence base for complementary medicine is steadily expanding, particularly for chronic, long-term medical conditions and is much stronger than is commonly appreciated. Decisions by PCTs to stop funding homeopathy have been made on the basis of highly debatable interpretations of the research evidence.

 The ‘gold standard’ for assessing the efficacy of a treatment is the systematic review or meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Since 1991 there have been six published meta-analyses of homeopathic RCTs: all but one concluded that homeopathy has an effect greater than placebo.

 Other types of research including cohort studies and observational studies suggest that homeopathy is effective in a wide range of conditions including eczema, recurrent coughs and colds in children, headache, otitis media, hyperactivity disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome.

 Acupuncture has an increasing body of evidence for a range of painful conditions, including low back pain, osteoarthritis, headache and migraine. 

 There is strong evidence of the effectiveness of herbal medicine in depression, prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections and arthritis. There is some evidence of the effectiveness of herbs in other conditions including fatigue and liver disease.

 Spinal manipulation (similar to osteopathy and chiropractic) has been shown to be effective in back pain and hynotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome.


Although the evidence is limited, it suggests that an integrated approach to healthcare gives better clinical outcomes with no increase in cost.  The cost effectiveness of acupuncture depends on how it is delivered – the RLHH has developed high-volume acupuncture clinics, specifically to deliver treatments in a cost-effective and evidence-based manner.

Why homeopathic hospitals are a valuable national asset

Research, information and education have made doctors increasingly aware of the benefits of complementary medicine particularly where there are ‘effectiveness gaps’ in conventional treatments. The National Library for Health, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, (the NHS’s on-line service providing quality assured evidence), is based at the London homeopathic hospital ( 

The homeopathic hospitals have a unique cadre of medical staff skilled in a wide range of conventional and complementary therapies and provide a focus for education, research, information and best practice.

Innovation and integration

The homeopathic hospitals are centres for innovation and integration. A leading example is the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, which has been responsible for a number of NHS innovations. For example, RLHH: 

 Established the NHS’s first acupuncture service in 1977. Acupuncture is now offered by virtually all NHS pain services, and evidence has steadily accumulated to prove that it is an effective treatment for a variety of painful conditions.

Introduced complementary cancer care into the NHS; this is now provided by most oncology centres.

Established the first NHS musculoskeletal medicine service. 

Had a range of herbal medicines included for the first time in the NHS Trust formulary.

Set up an integrated ante-natal clinic, in partnership with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Obstetric Hospitals, and childhood atopy (allergy) services in partnership with the paediatric department

Is developing a fully integrated Pain Service in collaboration with partners from the UCLH Trust including the National Hospital for Neurology and

Neurosurgery and Eastman Dental Hospital. 

These, and other, initiatives have had wide influence in the NHS and reduce its reliance on drug-based therapies. There is great further potential in this area.

 Un-met health needs of patients

Patients repeatedly report that homeopathy is a highly effective and patient-centred service. Those referred by their GPs to NHS homeopathic consultants often have chronic health problems which other parts of the health service have failed to treat successfully. If treatment is denied to these patients they will be referred to other NHS services, which have previously been ineffective and which are likely to be much more expensive than care provided by homeopathic doctors.  Patient choice

Patients have repeatedly demanded choice in the selection of appropriate health care and the Government has stated that giving patients more choice about how, when and where they receive treatment is one cornerstone of its health strategy. Giving people more choice and control over their treatment and services is one of the key priorities in the NHS.

 Government policy also encourages PCTs to give patients a voice in improving their health and has placed a duty on PCTs to strengthen local accountability and to shift the balance of power toward the community

   British Homeopathic Association

Hahnemann House

29 Park Street West

Luton LU1 3BE

 Tel: 0870 444 3950

Fax: 0870 444 3950

   Appendix One

Parliamentary Questions: Homeopathy

June 23rd 2006. 2.50 pm

Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they have any proposals to withdraw National Health Service funding for homeopathy.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My Lords, decisions on the commissioning of complementary and alternative therapies, including homeopathy, on the NHS, are matters for primary care trusts. The Government consider that clinical decisions on the use of complementary or alternative treatments should be left to clinicians. However, there is further scope for the National Institute for Clinical and Health Excellence to include assessment of complementary therapies in its guideline work. The Department of Health will discuss with NICE how we can ensure that clinical guidelines work includes complementary therapies where appropriate.

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that any system of medicine that aims to promote general health by reinforcing the body’s own healing capacity should be encouraged, researched and funded, and used whenever possible?

Lord Warner: My Lords, we regard issues like these as ones where patients can make many of their own judgments about how to look after themselves, but when they need treatment they go to a doctor, under the NHS, and get advice on the most appropriate therapy required for their condition.

Lord Winston: My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to break with tradition and come to the assistance of my noble friend. Is it not the case that the national homeopathic hospital conducts perfectly normative medicine and is it not justified in doing that, irrespective of the efficacy or otherwise of homeopathy, which I believe is only a small part of its practice?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I am overwhelmed by the support from my noble friend. Indeed, I am almost speechless—but he is of course right.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is in the NHS’s best interests to keep homeopathic practice within its limits, simply to test the interaction between homeopathic and more conventional forms of medicine, especially when one takes into account the number of people who choose to use homeopathic remedies?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I cannot think of any new ways to say, “We leave this to clinicians when they consider the needs of particular patients”. However, the House might like to know that the department supports research capacity in complementary and alternative medicine so that we can get a better understanding of the effectiveness of these therapies.

 24 Apr 2007: Column 1039W

 Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if she will take steps to ensure that patients requesting homeopathic treatment are able to attend one of the NHS homeopathic hospitals in England; [127995] (2) what steps she is taking to ensure that primary care trusts make patients aware that homeopathic treatment is an option on the NHS; [127996] (3) if she will make a statement on the availability of homeopathy in NHS hospitals. [127997]

 Caroline Flint: The homeopathic hospitals in this country fall under the jurisdiction of the national health service in the area in which they are based. Any decision on the services any of these hospitals provide are the responsibility of those NHS health care organisations.

 The Department commissioned the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health to publish a guide to complementary medicine for patients which gives them the information they would need to make an informed choice about the treatment they would wish to have. This publication is available online at Information is also available on the NHS Direct website,, on the possibility of homeopathy being available from one of the five NHS homeopathic hospitals in the United Kingdom as well as some general practitioner practices providing access to homeopathic treatment.

 The Government consider that decision-making on individual clinical interventions, whether conventional, or complementary/alternative treatments, have to be a matter for local NHS service providers and practitioners as they are best placed to know their community’s needs. In making such decisions, they have to take into account evidence for the safety, clinical and cost-effectiveness of any treatments, the availability of suitably qualified practitioners, and the needs of the individual patient. Clinical responsibility rests with the NHS professional who makes the decision to refer and who must therefore be able to justify any treatment they recommend. If they are unconvinced about the suitability of a particular treatment, they cannot be made to refer.

 Mr. Stephen O’Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether patients prescribed homeopathic treatment will be able to access it from (a) one of the four NHS homeopathic hospitals and (b) local NHS homeopathic clinics; and what commitments the Government has made to the continued provision of homeopathy through NHS homeopathic hospitals. [131760]

 Caroline Flint: The homeopathic hospitals in the United Kingdom fall under the jurisdiction of the national health service in the area in which they are based. Any decisions on the services any of these hospitals provide are the responsibility of those NHS healthcare organisations.

 The Government consider that decision-making on individual clinical interventions, whether conventional, or complementary/alternative treatments, have to be a matter for local NHS service providers and practitioners as they are best placed to know their community’s needs. In making such decisions, they have to take into account evidence for the safety, clinical and cost-effectiveness of any treatments, the availability of suitably qualified practitioners, and the needs of the individual patient. Clinical responsibility rests with the NHS professional who makes the decision to refer and who must therefore be able to justify any treatment they recommend. If they are unconvinced about the suitability of a particular treatment, they cannot be made to refer.

 12 July 2007: Column 1664W

 Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether patients who live in the areas covered by West Kent Primary Care Trust will continue to be able to receive homeopathy from the Tunbridge Wells NHS Homeopathic Hospital. [147817]

 Dawn Primarolo: It is for the local national health service, in partnership with strategic health authorities and other local stakeholders, to plan, develop and improve services for local people. Local solutions will meet the needs of local patients and communities. Consultation about the commissioning of homeopathy services is therefore a matter for West Kent Primary Care Trust.

  Appendix Two: Key organisations promoting NHS homeopathic medicine

 Faculty of Homeopathy

The Faculty of Homeopathy was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1950 and is the professional body that accredits and sets the standards for the education, training and practice of homeopathy by doctors, veterinary surgeons, podiatrists, dentists, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and other statutorily registered healthcare professionals.  Members of the Faculty integrate homeopathy and conventional medicine into their everyday practice.

The Faculty publishes the Medline listed homeopathic journal, Homeopathy.

 British Homeopathic Association

The British Homeopathic Association was established in 1902 as a charity to promote education and research in homeopathy.  Its aim is to ensure that high quality homeopathy is an integral part of general and specialist healthcare.  The BHA supports the work of the Faculty of Homeopathy and publishes a list of practising homeopathic doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists and others, which is sent to the public on request.  The BHA also publishes Health and Homeopathy, a magazine for anyone interested in the practice and development of homeopathy.