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NHS England wins legal challenge on homeopathy


By Valeria Fiore
Journalist intern
6 June 2018

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NHS England guidance on items that should not be routinely prescribed in primary care will not be overturned, the High Court has decided.

Mr Justice Supperstone rejected the British Homeopathic Association (BHA)’s demands to reverse NHS England’s guidance limiting the prescription of some products with low clinical effects.

After an NHS England’s 2017 consultation, GPs were recommended not to prescribe homeopathic medicines.

NHSE chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘There is no robust evidence to support homeopathy, which is at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds.

‘So we strongly welcome the High Court’s clear cut decision to kick out this costly and spurious legal challenge.’

Rational behind the review

The BHA sought a judicial review after it said it had identified serious ‘flaws in the way the health commissioning authority consulted the public on this issue’.

BHA chair Margaret Wyllie said: ‘That NHS England had attracted fewer than 3,000 responses from patients to a national consultation that ran for three months highlights its failure to genuinely engage with the public on important decisions about healthcare provision.’

‘The statement was so prejudicial it was widely reported in the media that the decision to deny patients homeopathic medicines had already been taken. How the judge failed to recognise that this was a deliberate attempt by NHS England to unfairly influence the public is astonishing.’

Work to ensure ‘finite NHS budget is spent effectively’

The NHS estimates it will save up to £141m a year by curbing prescriptions for ‘18 ineffective, unsafe or low clinical priority treatments, such as co-proxamol, some dietary supplements, herbal treatments and homeopathy’ as part of a guidance for commissioners published last year.

A further £100m a year could be saved after a list of ‘35 minor, short-term conditions for which over the counter medicines should not routinely be prescribed’ was published earlier this year, NHS England said.

Dr Graham Jackson, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: ‘We welcome the decision of the high court to reject the application by the BHA to overturn the NHS England guidance that supports local clinical commissioners to limit the routine prescribing of products of low clinical effectiveness.

‘This is an important element of ongoing work we are doing jointly with NHS England to ensure the finite NHS budget is spent effectively to deliver the best possible patient care and confirms the process to consult on and develop the guidance was robust and clinically proven.’

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