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Homeopathy is rubbish, says top doctor

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By FIONA MACRAE

London - Homeopathy was condemned as ‘rubbish’ by Britain’s chief medical officer on Wednesay.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said she was ‘perpetually surprised’ it is available on Britain’s National Health Service.

Dame Sally also described homeopaths as ‘peddlers’ and spoke of her concern that they can prescribe pills and potions to treat malaria and other illnesses.

Giving evidence to an influential committee of MPs, Dame Sally said that homeopathy doesn’t work past the placebo effect. In other words, any benefits patients perceive are caused by them receiving attention and simply expecting to feel better.

Her outspoken views are in conflict with the policy of the Health Service, which is said to spend around £4 million a year on funding homeopathic hospitals and on prescriptions and referrals.

Homeopathy, which has the backing of Prince Charles, claims to prevent and treat diseases using diluted forms of plants, herbs and minerals.

It is based on the principle that an illness can be treated by substances that produce similar symptoms. For example, it is claimed onions, which make eyes itchy and tearful, can be used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever.

Other treatments include anti-malaria tablets made from African swamp water, rotting plants and mosquito eggs and larvae. But scientists argue the ‘cures’ are so diluted they are unlikely to contain any of the original substance.

Asked about her views on homeopathy by the Commons science and technology committee, Dame Sally – a consultant haematologist, or specialist in blood diseases, at the Central Middlesex Hospital from 1985 until 2011 – said: ‘I’m very concerned when homeopathic practitioners try to peddle this way of life to prevent malaria or other infectious diseases.’

She added: ‘I am perpetually surprised that homeopathy is available on the NHS.’

Dame Sally concluded by saying homeopathy ‘is rubbish’.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has endorsed homeopathy. In 2007, while shadow minister for the disabled, he signed an early day motion backing its use on the NHS. Fifteen percent of Britons have used homeopathy at some point in their lives.

The exact amount of NHS spending on the discipline is unclear but various homeopathic associations say it is as high as £4 million a year.

The Department of Health said it is up to local NHS organisations to decide whether to fund it.

BY NUMBERS

£4ma year spent by the NHS on homeopathy.

£40m a year spent on over-the-counter remedies.

£20 – £80 the cost of a private consultation with a homeopath.

£10k prize money offered to anyone who can prove homeopathy works. It remains unclaimed.

65the number of years homeopathy has been available on the NHS.

400 GPs practise homeopathy and treat 200,000 patients a year.

206 MPs, including the now Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, signed an early day motion in support of homeopathy’s use on the NHS.

22,000 people signed a petition to save the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital in 2004. Funding cuts mean it is under threat again. - Daily Mail

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