Homeopathy is witchcraft, say NHS doctors
Homeopathy is “witchcraft” and the National Health Service should not pay for it, the British Medical Association has declared. Hundreds of members of the BMA have passed a motion denouncing the use of the alternative medicine, saying taxpayers should not foot the bill for remedies with no scientific basis to support them.
The BMA has previously expressed scepticism about homoeopathy, arguing that the rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence should examine the evidence base and make a definitive ruling about the use of the remedies in the NHS.
Now, the annual conference of junior doctors has gone further, with a vote overwhelmingly supporting a blanket ban, and an end to all placements for trainee doctors which teach them homeopathic principles.
Dr Tom Dolphin, deputy chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee in England told the conference: “Homeopathy is witchcraft. It is a disgrace that nestling between the National Hospital for Neurology and Great Ormond Street [in London] there is a National Hospital for Homeopathy which is paid for by the NHS”.
The alternative medicine, devised in the 18th century by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann, is based on a theory that substances which cause symptoms in a healthy person can, when vastly diluted, cure the same problems in a sick person.
Proponents say the resulting remedy retains a “memory” of the original ingredient – a concept dismissed by scientists.
Latest figures show 54,000 patients are treated each year at four NHS homeopathic hospitals in London, Glasgow, Bristol and Liverpool, at an estimated cost of £4 million.
A fifth hospital in Tunbridge Wells in Kent was forced to close last year when local NHS funders stopped paying for treatments.
Gordon Lehany, chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee in Scotland said it was wrong that some junior doctors were spending part of their training rotations in homeopathic hospitals, learning principles which had no place in science.
He told the conference in London last weekend: “At a time when the NHS is struggling for cash we should be focusing on treatments that have proven benefit. If people wish to pay for homoeopathy that’s their choice but it shouldn’t be paid for on the NHS until there is evidence that it works.”
The motion was supported by BMA Chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum, though it will only become official policy of the whole organisation if it is agreed by their full conference next month.
In February a report by MPs said the alternative medicine should not receive state funding.
The Commons science and technology committee also said vials of the remedies should not be allowed to use phrases like “used to treat” in their marketing, as consumers might think there is clinical evidence that they work.
In evidence to the committee, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain said there was no possible reason why such treatments, marketed by an industry worth £40 million in this country, could be effective scientifically.
Advocates of homoeopathy say even if the effect of the remedies is to work as a placebo, they are chosen by thousands of people, and do not carry the risks and side effects of many mainstream medicines.
A survey carried out at England’s NHS homeopathic hospitals found 70 per cent of patients said they felt some improvement after undergoing treatment.
Crystal Sumner, chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association (BHA), said attempts to stop the NHS funding alternative medicines ignored the views of the public, especially patients with chronic conditions.
She said: ” Homeopathy helps thousands of people who are not helped by conventional care. We don’t want it to be a substitute for mainstream care, but when people are thinking about making cuts to funding, I think they need to consider public satisfaction, and see that homoeopathy has a place in medicine.”
She said junior doctors’ calls for an end to any training placements based in homeopathic hospitals ignored the lessons alternative medicine could provide, in terms of how to diagnose patients.
Estimates on how much the NHS spends on homoeopathy vary. The BHA says the NHS spends about £4 million a year on homeopathic services, although the Department of Health says spending on the medicines themselves is just £152,000 a year.
Like many Conservatives before him, the new British Prime Minister sees the need for reform — but cautious reform
Consternation has ever been a reliable constituent of comedy. Take, for example, the detonations of disbelief across the left-wing commentariat as they saw Nick Clegg lead the Liberal Democrats into a coalition configured to offer David Cameron a five-year secure tenancy of No 10. It was better than slapstick. Nice Nick was supposed to do as he was told by his backers in the media and form a “progressive alliance” with defeated Labour to keep the wicked Tories out. And what happens? He gives Cameron the solid parliamentary majority the Conservatives could not achieve on their own.
At the start of the week, Polly Toynbee, in an article entitled “Lib-Lab — the only legitimate coalition”, declared: “This is the moment of truth when finally and irreversibly the Liberal Democrats have to define themselves, something they have for so long avoided. Whose side are they really on?” The answer, of course, was: their own. As a result of Nick Clegg’s deal (demonstrating the skills acquired while negotiating with China during his time as a Brussels Eurocrat) not far short of half his MPs get ministerial posts.
The other comical aspect of this denouement is the apparently genuine belief of the advocates of a Lib-Lab coalition that somehow Clegg and his colleagues were guilty of a great betrayal. Yet over the past few years not just Clegg, but also Chris Huhne, David Laws and even Vince Cable — all now in the cabinet — had repeatedly fulminated against new Labour’s quangocracy, its gross abuses of personal liberty, its bloated bureaucratisation and every other aspect of what David Marquand termed “the heavy-handed, statist, democratic collectivism that has been second nature to Labour governments since the 1920s”.
Marquand, one of the founding members of the SDP, who gave his support to new Labour and later bitterly regretted it, made that observation in an article for The Guardian two years ago which now appears visionary. In it, he warned the left that they “had rediscovered one of the oldest tropes in the rhetorical armoury of self-styled progressives” by asserting that David Cameron was a man who “may talk the talk of harmony and cohesion but won’t — can’t — walk the walk”. Marquand presciently identified Cameron as a politician in the “Whig-imperialist tradition [that] reigned for most of the 19th century and virtually the entire interwar period … it shaped the three great reform acts that slowly widened the suffrage.”
Benjamin Disraeli had his own celebrated formulation of this political phenomenon: a sound Conservative government was “Tory men and Whig measures”.
The idea that it is possible both to be a Tory and a reformer has always been hard for the left to grasp. [It undercuts one of their chief defence-mechanisms] Thus Mark Steel in The Independent wrote of David Cameron’s attempt to portray the Conservatives as enlightened: “The Conservative party has had many images, but retains an unchanging purpose, which is to represent the minority of wealthy people who control society. That’s why they opposed the abolition of slavery [and] the Factory Acts.” The fact that William Wilberforce was a Tory, as was the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (the driving force behind the Factory Acts of the mid 18th century) seems not to have swayed the author from his Manichean outlook: only the left can be good, therefore all Tories are evil.
This is why Marquand’s phrase about “self-styled progressives” is so telling. It pinpoints the deep intellectual conceit of those on the left who imagine not just that they are the only people who can be described as “progressive”, but that anyone from a different political tradition has purely cynical motivations, even — or perhaps especially — as a reformer. In the context of the new government, they therefore find it impossible to take at face value Michael Gove’s claims to want to improve the education of the poorest, or Iain Duncan Smith’s desire to rescue an entire generation from the pit of welfare dependency.
It is, of course, the fact that both these Conservatives see private enterprise and the re-establishment of individual initiative and responsibility as the essential components in any solution of these most difficult of social problems which makes them so unacceptable to the self-styled progressives.
Perhaps it is that implacable sense that there is no political moral worth outside the left which led so many of its commentators seriously to suggest that even after Labour’s debacle in the general election, the “only legitimate coalition” was one led by them. To be fair to the Labour party itself, most of its MPs could see the implausibility of any such government, which could not even muster a parliamentary majority. They actually encountered the mood of the nation on the doorsteps, and in any case had the wary respect for public opinion which tends to distinguish the politicians from their speechwriters.
It was one of Tony Blair’s speechwriters, Peter Hyman, who demonstrated this attitude of mind most clearly last week. On the day that it seemed faintly possible that a deal could be done between the Lib Dems and the political husk that remains of new Labour, Jeremy Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight invited Hyman to give the Liberal Democrats one reason why they should form an alliance with Labour. “To put the Tories out of power for a generation,” was the instant response of Blair’s ex-adviser.
There you have it. It was nothing to do with any policies; nothing to do with any principles: just a way to manipulate the political system to establish a permanent government of the centre-left — presumably (or so we were told) by passing a law to abolish first-past-the-post constituency elections without even consulting the public. Thank you and good night.
It could have been worse. At least the die-hard columnar supporters of new Labour did not echo the words of the secretary of the East German Writers Union, who, in the wake of the 1953 workers’ uprising against the Communist government, distributed leaflets stating that the people had “thrown away the confidence of the government and could win it back only by redoubled efforts” — prompting Bertolt Brecht to observe: “Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”
The supporters of the doomed Lib-Lab pact insist, by contrast, that there is a “natural” anti-Conservative majority in the country, and that therefore it is “democratic” to have only governments which permanently exclude the Tories (backed by a completely irrelevant 10,683,787 people) from power. On their analysis it would have been more “democratic” to have had a Lib-Lab coalition than the one now in office, even though it had garnered 2m fewer votes. This, apparently, would have been much more “progressive”.
Like all elements of political jargon, the word “progressive” has, in any case, been steadily stripped of meaning. Is it “progressive” to subsidise the biggest landowners in the country for providing a now compulsory form of energy — wind — whose intermittence and inefficiency will only increase fuel poverty among the multitudes? According to the current environmentalist fashion, embraced with a peculiar mixture of sanctimony and credulity by the leaders of the new governing coalition, yes, that is indeed highly progressive. Fortunately for them, whichever particular Milliband becomes leader of the Labour party, they can expect absolutely no criticism from Her Majesty’s Remaining Opposition on that account; and thus it is that the only voices in parliament willing to point out the inequity of such arrangements are to be found on the excluded Tory right.
So the inauguration of this novel political dispensation has not merely provided us with richly comic moments: there is paradox and irony in the mix, too. It will be fascinating to see how the new government copes with the consequences.
Frank Field defects to Conservative-led coalition to be Britain’s ‘Poverty Tsar’
Field has long been a friend and admirer of Lady Thatcher. He is undoubtedly an exceptionally sincere man
Former Labour Minister Frank Field is to ‘defect’ to David Cameron’s new coalition Government by taking on the role of Britain’s ‘Poverty Tsar’, it was revealed last night.
Social conservative Mr Field is to lead a major review into poverty as part of Mr Cameron’s promise to tackle what he calls ‘Broken Britain’ – social breakdown, rising crime and the benefits dependency culture.
The move is a major boost in Mr Cameron’s attempt to show that his new Liberal-Conservative coalition can command the support of elements of the Labour Party.
In another clear sign of the coalition’s political leanings, leading Left-wing political pundit Will Hutton is to be Mr Cameron’s ‘Fair Pay Tsar’, tasked with slashing the pay of public-sector fat cats.
His job will include advising on new rules to ban local authority and quango chiefs from being paid more than 20 times the salary of the lowest paid employee in their organisation. Mr Hutton writes for The Observer, traditionally a fierce critic of the Tories.
The recruitment of Mr Field and Mr Hutton is the latest stage of what some are calling Mr Cameron’s ‘Operation Hoover’ to entice prominent non-Conservatives to work for his Government.
Tory chiefs have been in secret talks with Mr Field for months to try to persuade him to work for Mr Cameron. He was made Welfare Minister by Tony Blair in 1997 with instructions to cut benefits but quit after a year following a series of bitter disputes with Gordon Brown, who claimed Mr Field’s proposals would punish the poor.
Birkenhead MP Mr Field, who is expected to remain in the Labour Party, will report to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who has expressed admiration for Mr Field’s work.
Mr Field is expected to issue a report setting out how Labour’s welfare policies failed to help the poor and to produce guidelines to help the Conservatives to target help to the less well-off more effectively.
A key part of his work will be finding ways to break the ‘dependency culture’ whereby, say some experts, state benefits can undermine the incentive to work and add to social ills.
Mr Cameron wooed Mr Field in public in January when they attended a Tory election event together.
Mr Field ruled out defecting to the Conservatives but said Labour’s policies had failed to end poverty. Mr Cameron praised Mr Field for accepting that children need strong families to instil responsibility.
‘For a long time Frank has been willing to say the unsayable,’ said Mr Cameron. ‘He has argued that the welfare state should be more than a money-redistribution system but rather “openly reward good behaviour and …be used to enhance those roles which the country values”.
‘He has drawn the link between family breakdown and more instability, more crime, greater pressure on housing and social benefits, arguing that a fundamental principle of the welfare state should be to support families and children. ‘When he first started talking about these things, no one quite realised how important they are. Now we do.’
‘Fair Pay Tsar’ Mr Hutton is an ardent pro-European known for his social democrat views.
Mr Cameron’s pledge earlier this year that no public sector boss should earn more than 20 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker was coupled with a promise of a review ‘to investigate pay inequality in the public sector’.
It is estimated that up to 200 chief executives and quango bosses could see their pay cut as a result. Big losers will include Ed Richards, boss of communications watchdog Ofcom, whose £392,056 pay is 22 times the £18,000 salary of his lowest-paid staff. But Bank of England Governor Mervyn King will escape – just. At £296,818, his pay is 19 times higher than the lowest-paid employee at the bank’s headquarters in Threadneedle Street, in the City.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance has questioned whether the salary cap would work, saying only ‘a handful’ of public sector chiefs would be affected and accusing Mr Cameron of failing to provide ‘anything like an adequate response to excessive pay at the top of the public sector’.
However, shortly after Mr Cameron’s call, West Yorkshire’s Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, who earns £213,000 a year in pay and pension perks, admitted he was not worth it.
He said bumper pay awards were ‘untenable’ and added that many employed by the state were following a vocation and would happily do the job for less pay.
Charges dropped against British Christian who preached ‘homosexuality is a sin’
The street preacher charged with public-order offences for saying homosexuality is a sin has had his case dropped after his plight was highlighted by The Mail on Sunday.
Dale Mcalpine was arrested by police who claimed his comments to passers-by had caused offence. But the Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to pursue the charges as there is insufficient evidence.
Mr Macalpine, 42, said: ‘This is a victory for freedom of speech. I hope we are not going down the road towards a police state and the thought police. I can’t wait to get out on to the streets again and preach the word of God.”
He is now taking legal advice over suing the police for wrongful arrest.
Mr Mcalpine, who earns about £40,000 a year in the energy industry, had been handing out leaflets and talking to passers-by about his Christian beliefs in the centre of Workington, Cumbria, last month.
In conversation with one woman, he listed a number of sins from the Bible, including adultery, drunkenness and homosexuality.
He was then approached by Police Community Support Officer Sam Adams, who said he was gay and a liaison officer with the local homosexual community – and who warned him he could be arrested for making homophobic remarks.
Mr Mcalpine denied he was homophobic but said that as a Christian he did believe homosexuality was a sin. Three uniformed officers then arrested him.
After seven hours in a cell, which he spent reading the Bible and singing hymns, Mr Mcalpine was charged by a Senior Crown Prosecutor with offences under the Public Order Act 1986.
At a magistrates’ court late last month his trial date was set for September, but this newspaper’s coverage of his treatment provoked a public outcry.
Supporters of free speech, including gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, called on the new Home Secretary, Theresa May, to curb politically correct authorities. He said: ‘The Public Order Act is meant to protect people from harm. I urge the Home Secretary to issue new guidelines, making it clear the police should not arrest people for expressing bigoted views in a non-threatening and non-aggressive manner.’
Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, which has been backing Mr Mcalpine, said: ‘Cumbria police can’t just walk away from this as if nothing happened. ‘There is clearly a problem in the system that needs putting right.’
Chief Supt Steve Johnson, Police Commander for West Cumbria, said: ‘We would like to reassure the public that we respect, and are committed to upholding, the fundamental right to freedom of expression.’ [How?]
Languages crisis is threatening a generation of British state school pupils
Only a narrow body of water separates Britain from many important countries that do not speak English — so some familiarity with at least one of those languages would seem important — both for business and for travel.
It was once important culturally too but, sadly, culture is “out” these days and there are very few English people who will ever have the pleasure of (say) enjoying Schubert Lieder in the original German.
“Wer reitet so spaet durch Nacht und Wind?/Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind./Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,/Er fasst ihn sicher, er haelt ihn warm”. ….
A terrible loss
A generation of state school children risks being left monolingual because of a looming crisis in language teaching. Labour’s efforts to entice children into choosing to study languages by switching from compulsory GCSEs to primary school classes have failed, experts say.
The number of teenagers taking a modern language has fallen by a third since that was scrapped as a GCSE requirement in 2004. Three quarters of schools no longer require pupils to take exams at 16 in French, German or Spanish.
Instead the focus changed to fostering a love of languages in primary school, so pupils would supposedly choose to study them at secondary level. But because the teaching of languages at primary school is patchy and variable, secondary teachers have to start from scratch at 11.
Researchers have told The Times that children who already know the language are repeating basic work, becoming bored and resentful, and dropping languages at 14 when they make GCSE choices.
They blame incoherence in language teaching, and claim that none of the main political parties will address the problem.
Universities suggest that the issue is starting to have an impact on their recruitment of state school pupils, and they are trying to address the situation with summer schools and language masterclasses.
Employers have also voiced concerns, and the trend has worrying implications for the future production of enough language teachers, who will be in increasing demand when teaching a foreign language becomes compulsory at primary school next year.
Academics say that British children are getting the worst deal in Europe. Sylvia Jaworska, a lecturer in German at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “For foreign languages not to be obligatory is uniquely British. Every secondary school in Europe ensures that pupils study at least one foreign language up to 18 years old.
“Here in the UK, languages are viewed as difficult subjects. Worryingly, some secondary schools don’t push students to take them, because they think it might affect their league table results.”
This was echoed by the Sutton Trust, a charity that tackles educational inequality. Lee Elliot Major, its director of research and policy, said: “They [state schools] focus on English and maths and vocational subjects to get better results, but it’s not necessarily what’s best for children.”
Dr Jaworska’s students are working with a local primary school in East London to interest them in languages. She said that the number of German language teachers had decreased by 300 in the past five years. “If fewer modern foreign language GCSEs are taken, we worry that ultimately our student intake will drop,” she added. “Our hope is to encourage school pupils to take up languages and then, as graduates, to become language teachers.”
Some prestigious universities require candidates to have a language GCSE, no matter what degree they are taking. Others that are striving to widen participation to pupils from varied backgrounds say that the decline in languages at state schools could hamper this.
The independent schools sector accounted for 15 per cent of all A-level entries in 2008-09, but its pupils took 34 per cent of the modern foreign language exams, and made up almost half of those achieving an A grade.
Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group of leading universities, said: “Knowledge of modern foreign languages is vital to the UK. The Russell Group and the wider higher education sector have been affected in recent years by changes in demand for language degrees and courses, resulting in part from changes to language provision in the school sector.
“In particular, we are concerned about the relatively low proportion of students who take modern foreign languages at A level within the state school sector.”
The CBI has said that more than a third of British businesses hire people for their language skills, but that they are increasingly forced to recruit from overseas to meet this need.