Doctors prescribed homeopathic medicines more than 2,000 times last year despite the therapies being “blacklisted” by the NHS, The Telegraph can reveal.
GPs made out 2,165 prescriptions for homeopathic remedies in 2019, new data shows, apparently ignoring a 2017 warning from NHS England not to prescribe homeopathic treatments, which NHS chief executive Simon Stevens described as “at best a placebo” and “a misuse of scarce NHS funds”.
Health chiefs said last year they would ask the Government to “formally blacklist” homeopathy so it could not be prescribed – but this has not yet been made law.
In total, the NHS paid out around £46,000 for homeopathic prescriptions in 2019, enough to employ nearly two newly-qualified nurses. And in the first six months of 2020, doctors prescribed homeopathic treatments 554 times, costing the NHS nearly £16,000.
That includes 295 prescriptions made out during the height of the coronavirus lockdown between March and June, even though the number of patients having GP appointments was down by a quarter.
Homeopathy prescriptions made during lockdown cost the health service nearly £7,000 – enough to buy around 12,000 protective surgical face masks.
The figures are revealed just months after health officials accused homeopaths of spreading “misinformation” about Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic and selling remedies online claiming to treat the virus.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director said: “Homeopathy has no place in the NHS and is no replacement for rigorously tried and tested medical care. We have been clear in our guidance to GPs that they should not be prescribing these bogus treatments, which are at best a placebo and a misuse of taxpayers’ money.”
Michael Marshall, project director of the pro-science charity Good Thinking Society, said: “It is simply astonishing to see, during a pandemic in which the NHS is under enormous pressure, that there are GPs who persist in prescribing remedies which have been comprehensively shown to be of no benefit at all”.
“Homeopathic pills are not effective for any condition, and to have doctors handing them out on the NHS risks legitimising the homeopathic industry: a profession whose members have in recent months been repeatedly exposed as spreading anti-vaccine misinformation.”
The NHS prescription data, analysed by the Telegraph using the Oxford University-run website OpenPrescribing.net, showed spending was driven by GPs in a handful of areas.
Just five clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were responsible for 67 per cent of all prescription spending on homeopathy in 2019 and 83 per cent during lockdown.
Doctors in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG region accounted for more than 35 per cent of all NHS spending on homeopathic remedies in 2019, having made out prescriptions costing the health service around £16,300.
Another four CCGs – Derby and Derbyshire, Devon, Sheffield and West Kent (now part of Kent and Medway) – accounted for a further 32 per cent of the total NHS spend, prescribing more than £14,200 of homeopathic treatments between them last year.