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NHS. No choice for Marjorie (allegedly)

August 21, 2011

Someone I follow on Twitter recently posted a link to this blogpost that originated from someone writing as the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths. The story is one of an elderly lady with arthritis. The post claims that at one time she was able to get funding on the NHS to see a homeopath but no longer can. It says that at one time her Primary Care Trust, The Bournemouth and Poole PCT, did provide funding for patients to see homeopaths but no longer do so. The blog claims that this is a scandal in denying the patient the right to choose which type of treatment she gets. It claims that the patient won’t use conventional (i.e. real) medicines because of adverse effects.

Ok, I can well understand that adverse effects can be serious and intolerable. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) have well-documented adverse effects such as upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding (which can be life-threatening). On the other hand, they are very effective. However, the nature of this patient’s illness and the decision by the PCT to not fund homeopathy for it is somewhat irrelevant. Homeopathy is bunk. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committeee have stated that it should not be funded on the NHS. This view was taken having fully examined the evidence concerning the efficacy of homeopathy and concluding that it is no more than placebo, with any placebo benefit accruing from the consultation process. Essentially it is a form of psychotherapy. I fully support the scientific evidence-based decision not to fund homeopathy on the NHS. I also support moves to get rid of homeopathy services that still (perversely, in my opinion) exist within the NHS and indeed any form of “medicine” that does not have evidence to support its use. That therefore includes pretty much the whole gamut of so-called “complementary” and “alternative” therapies.

However, the main point of my post here is that the blog has a comments section, much like any other blog. I wrote a comment expressing my sympathy for the patient (Marjorie) and her pain but supporting the decision of the PCT not to fund homeopathic “treatment” for her. Homeopathic “remedies” consist of highly-diluted “solutions” of substances that are supposed to – in higher concentrations – produce the symptoms the patient is suffering from. This is one of the “laws” that the inventor of homeopathy, Samuel Hanhnemann, proposed. This is not a “law” in the same way that we have a law of gravity because it is unproven. Scientifically, the “laws of homeopathy” are nonsensical. So, as part of my criticism to the blogpost, I referenced the evidence showing homeopathy to be no more than placebo, including the meta-analysis by Shang in The Lancet in 2005 and the website of the 10:23 campaign. After posting, the comment was last seen “awaiting moderation”. It’s not appeared on this blog. I wrote a second comment asking what had happened to my first comment – no sign of it now! I wish I’d saved them for insertion here. I’ve just posted another comment:-

“Two comments posted in response to this diatribe so far, neither appears to have passed moderation. Why is that? Is it that you won’t permit critical comments to be posted here? Is it that your argument really has no substance to it in the same way that a homeopathic remedy has nothing in it?”

This comment “…will be visible after approval”. Hmm. Like the other two are visible (not). Of course it may be that they’re just a bit slow moderating and approving comments. On the other hand, they may be using filters to screen out words and phrases they don’t approve of. Or it may be that someone is reading them and deleting them. I guess that we’ll have to wait and see! If the comments don’t appear in the next few days, we’ll have our answer. 

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