[The usual villains, Ernst, Baum. The Allopaths never give up the politics. See Experts.]
The Times May 23, 2006
NHS told to abandon alternative medicine
By Mark Henderson, Science Editor
Top doctors say money should go to conventional treatment
A GROUP of Britain's leading doctors has urged every NHS trust to stop
paying for alternative medicine and to use the money for conventional
Their appeal is a direct challenge to the Prince of Wales's outspoken
campaign to widen access to complementary therapies.
Public funding of "unproven or disproved treatments" such as homoeopathy and
reflexology, which are promoted by the Prince, is unacceptable while huge
NHS deficits are forcing trusts to sack nurses and limit access to
life-saving drugs, the doctors say.
The 13 scientists, who include some of the most eminent names in British
medicine, have written to the chief executives of all 476 acute and primary
care trusts to demand that only evidence-based therapies are provided free
Their letter, seen by The Times, has been sent as the Prince today steps up
his crusade for increased provision of alternative treatments with a
controversial speech to the World Health Organisation assembly in Geneva.
The Prince, who was yesterday given a lesson in crystal therapy while
touring a complementary health unit in Merthyr Tydfil, will ask the WHO to
embrace alternative therapies in the fight against serious disease. His
views have outraged clinicians and researchers, who claim that many of the
therapies that he advocates have been shown to be ineffective in trials or
have never been properly tested.
The letter criticises two of his flagship initiatives on complementary
medicine: a government-funded patient guide prepared by his Foundation for
Integrated Medicine, and the Smallwood report last year, which he
commissioned to make a financial case for increasing NHS provision.
Both documents, it is claimed, give misleading information about scientific
support for therapies such as homoeopathy, described as "an implausible
treatment for which over a dozen systematic reviews have failed to produce
convincing evidence of effectiveness".
The letter's signatories include Sir James Black, who won the Nobel Prize
for Medicine in 1988, and Sir Keith Peters, president of the Academy of
Medical Science, which represents Britain's leading clinical researchers.
It was organised by Michael Baum, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at
University College London, and other supporters include six Fellows of the
Royal Society, Britain's national academy of science, and Professor Edzard
Ernst, of the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, who holds the UK's first
chair in complementary medicine.
The doctors ask trust chief executives to review their policies so that
patients are given accurate information, and not to waste scarce resources
on therapies that have not been shown to work by rigorous clinical trials.
They conclude: "At a time when the NHS is under intense pressure, patients,
the public and the NHS are best served by using the available funds for
treatments that are based on solid evidence."
Professor Baum, a cancer specialist, said that he had organised the letter
because of his "utter despair" at growing NHS acceptance of alternative
treatments while drugs of proven effectiveness are being withheld. "At a
time when we are struggling to gain access for our patients to Herceptin,
which is absolutely proven to extend survival in breast cancer, I find it
appalling that the NHS should be funding a therapy like homoeopathy that is
utterly bogus," he said.
He said that he was happy for the NHS to offer the treatments once research
has proven them effective, such as acupuncture for pain relief, but that
very few had reached the required standards.
"If people want to spend their own money on it, fine, but it shouldn't be
The Department of Health does not keep figures on the total NHS spending on
alternative medicine, but Britain's total market is estimated at £1.6