Letter to Jeremy Hunt MP on Homeopathy
Jeremy Hunt MP Update - Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is one of those who signed an early-day motion supporting spending NHS money on homeopathic hospitals. Does he really support paying NHS money for water?
On 28 March 2007, Early-Day Motion 1240 was submitted to the House of Commons. It reads:
That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets.
On 24 August 2007, this came to my attention that my own MP, Jeremy Hunt, had signed this motion. Although this is a bit late, this is a serious lapse of judgement and I felt the need to write to him anyway:
[My address omitted]
Mr Jeremy Hunt M.P., House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
24 August 2007
Dear Mr. Hunt,
It has been brought to my attention that you have put your name to EDM 1240, in support of NHS Homeopathic Hospitals, and as one of your constituents I thought I would write to express my dismay at this support and try to explain why.
First and foremost, homeopathy simply does not work. It has no plausible mechanism of action, and its purported mechanism of action contravenes known physical principles. Regardless of theory, it has been demonstrated not to work, beyond reasonable doubt, time and time again. It has failed every large, controlled, randomized double-blind trial that it has been subjected to. Initial results from small studies, always provisional (and highly publicized by its supporters), fade away when the experimental protocols are refined to remove bias, and the sample sizes are increased. These are the hallmarks of a therapy with no real effect.
More worryingly, by diverting people away from genuine treatment, homeopathy works to increase load on the NHS. In a recent study, many homeopathic practitioners advised their patients not to take anti-malaria treatments when traveling abroad, and this kind of advice abounds for many other ailments. By avoiding treatment at an early stage, patients eventually present at the NHS with advanced symptoms, requiring more expensive treatment than they would originally have required.
For the NHS to be wasting money on ineffective treatment, especially in a time when real treatments are being rationed due to budgetary constraints, is unsupportable. It seems inconsistent to me that you have campaigned for Milford Hospital to be retained whilst also asking for us to divert funds into treatments known for many years to be bogus. The Conservative party regularly takes the government to task for waste in the public services. Signing this EDM condones waste of the worst kind.
I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Dear Mr Ellis,
Thank you very much for your letter regarding EDM 1240 in support of Homeopathic Hospitals. I appreciate that you are disappointed that I added my name to this motion, and read your comments on this issue with interest.
I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue. Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is "patient-led" it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient.
I am grateful to you for taking the time to write with your concerns. I realise that my answer will be a disappointing one for you, but I hope that the letter helps to clarify my view.
Jeremy Hunt Member of Parliament South West Surrey
I am currently formulating a suitable reply.
In a surprise move, Hunt is now Health Secretary. I will be writing to him again, to see whether his stance on this issue has changed.