The NHS is looking to claim back all £120,000 in costs it incurred defending a legal challenge from homeopath groups challenging its ban on the non-evidence-based remedies.
Homeopathic remedies were among a host of “low-value” treatments banned by the NHS, following a consultation, as part of a drive to reduce costs and prioritise medicines and procedures where the evidence is best.
The chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens has said that the remedies were “at best a placebo” and that scarce NHS funds could be sent elsewhere.
Homeopaths claim that “like cures like”. Remedies are created by dissolving a material believed to cause a certain affliction in water, then diluting that solution many times past the point at which any molecules of the original substance remain. The weaker the solution, the more powerful the remedy, it is claimed.
During the process the water is knocked against a leather and horsehair surface, before a droplet is applied to plain tablets and they are packaged.
This rejection led to a legal challenge by The British Homeopathic Association (BHA) on the basis the negative statements about homeopathy had prejudiced the public consultation, and that the evidence had been too difficult for the public to understand. While an appeal was granted it was rejected after four days of legal arguments.
Judges dismissed the BHA’s challenge in June.
Mr Justice Supperstone rejected the BHA’s complaint that the evidence cited by NHSE to show homeopathy did not work was too complicated for the public to understand. The BHA was ordered to pay NHS England’s costs by the High Court and said it intended to raise the money by crowd-funding from patients who felt they had benefited from the remedies.
He also said that “there is no evidence of bias or predetermination on NHSE’s part”, though BHA, in its later statement, accused the body of a “failure to genuinely engage with the public on important decisions about healthcare provision”. It said the judge’s decision was “astonishing”.
At the High Court ruling, Mr Justice Supperstone did not pass judgement on whether the procedures worked, but said NHS England was well placed to do so.
A spokesperson for the BHA was quoted as saying; “For the BHA it was a risk worth taking to tackle NHS England’s consultation process which the charity felt was unlawful and would stop patients, particularly those chronically ill and elderly, from getting the homeopathic medicines they depend upon through the NHS,”
“The BHA will be paying all agreed legal costs from donations raised through crowdfunding for the case, other donations received directly for our legal challenge and from legacies received from grateful patients, most of whom benefited from NHS homeopathic services in the past.”