Quack medicine still being funded on NHS
Only because the politicians see votes in it
Homeopathy – described as nothing more than “sugar pill medicine” by its detractors – is still being widely funded on the NHS, a survey shows today. A third of primary care trusts in England are still funding the alternative medicine, according to the poll by the magazine GP.
It asked all of England’s 151 PCTs if they funded homeopathy using Freedom of Information Act requests. Of the 104 that responded, 32 said they did still fund it. Ten PCTs said they had ceased funding because there was no strong evidence that it was effective.
Those health authorities that are still funding it are doing so despite a plea by the British Medical Association (BMA) for no more NHS money to be spent on homeopathy.
Last February the House of Commons’ science and technology committee advised that NHS funding should be stopped, saying there was a “mismatch” between evidence that it worked and government policy. However, in July the Coalition said homeopathy would continue to be funded, with PCTs responsible for making decisions locally.
According to the Society of Homeopaths, “Homeopathy is a system of medicine which is based on treating the individual with highly diluted substances given in mainly tablet form, which triggers the body’s natural system of healing” “Based on their experience of their symptoms, a homeopath will match the most appropriate medicine to the patient.” Practitioners believe that the remedy, in conjunction with lengthy consultations, can help cure illnesses and alleviate symptoms.
However, most doctors believe the remedies themselves have no physiological effect, with the only benefits coming from the placebo effect and lengthy consultations.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of the science and ethics at the BMA, said: “Homeopathic remedies do not have a scientific evidence base to support their use. And the BMA believes that limited and scarce NHS resources should only be used to support medicine and treatment that have been shown to be effective.”
Dr Joanne Watt, a GP in Corby, Northamptonshire, said: “I would find it very difficult to explain to someone why I haven’t been able to pay for their knee operation if we’d been paying for expensive sugar pills. “This is like trying to introduce crystal healing into the NHS.” She added: “I do not doubt the benefit of a longer and holistic consultation, but feel it should not be necessary to see someone supplying an unscientific treatment to experience this.”
The Department of Health said it was down to PCTs to decide if they wanted to fund homeopathy.
Another GP, Dr Mary McCarthy from Shrewsbury in Shropshire, thought the Government had caved in to those from the homeopathy lobby. She said: “There is a small but vociferous minority who have influence with government which, I feel, is the reason that NHS funding has not been withdrawn.”
Dr Sara Eames, president of the Faculty of Homeopathy and a former GP, said that homeopathy could be used to manage patients who were hard to treat and would otherwise require costly consultant referrals.
The Department of Health defended the availability of homeopathy on the NHS, and said only £152,000 was spent on homeopathic prescriptions in 2008. She said: “We believe in patients being able to make informed choices about their treatment, and in a clinician being able to prescribe the treatment they feel most appropriate in particular circumstances, which may include complementary or alternative treatments such as homeopathy.
“It is the responsibility of clinicians to discuss the risks and benefits of specific treatment options with individual patients; and to take into account safety, clinical and cost-effectiveness and the availability of suitably qualified or regulated practitioners. “Data shows that in 2008 just 0.001 per cent of the overall drugs bill was spent on homeopathic prescriptions.”
British cops get it right for once
Whining burglar locked up after HE dialled 999 to complain he had been shot with air rifle after breaking into family home
A judge has backed a teenager for dispensing ‘summary justice’ by shooting a burglar with an air rifle. Gary Holmes, 19, said he fired twice in self-defence when intruder Lewis Patterson, 20, went for him with an iron bar. Lawyers agreed that Mr Holmes, who feared for the safety of his girlfriend and her two-month-old baby, had acted within the law to protect himself.
Astonishingly, Patterson himself called the police to claim he was the victim. But he pleaded guilty at Hull Crown Court to burglary and was sent to a young offenders’ institution for 18 months.
Judge Michael Mettyear said: ‘This was quite outrageous conduct. It must have been very worrying and distressing for your victim. It’s true to say he got some summary justice but nevertheless it is something that will live with him for a very long time.’
Mr Holmes, a factory worker, was at his mother’s house in Hull when he heard his dog barking at around 9.30pm last October. He looked out of his bedroom window and saw Patterson in the back garden. Mr Holmes said: ‘He was swaying like he was drunk. I knew something was going to happen. He was not normal.’
Mr Holmes grabbed an air rifle he used for shooting rabbits on a farm and ran downstairs. ‘On the way I picked up three pellets and put two of them in the gun,’ he said.
He found Patterson in his mother’s living room. He was attempting to steal his £1,250 motorcycle, which he stored there for safe-keeping. ‘I told him to get out, not very politely,’ Mr Holmes said. ‘He just looked straight back at me. I put the rifle up to him and he stepped out on to the patio. ‘I know a bit about firearms and the law, so I warned him. I showed him the rifle and he came back into the house again.
‘That was when he raised the iron bar he was carrying. So I raised the gun back up. Then I shouted again: “Get out.” He just stared at me. ‘He kept coming at me with the bar so I shot him. He then started to come towards me again and threw a brick at me. I shot him again. If I had let him hit me, I could have been in hospital or dead.’ Mr Holmes added: ‘At the time I was in shock. Thinking back, it was just a reaction. I don’t just shoot people.’
Patterson fled on a bicycle but then contacted police to report being shot. He claimed he was hit as he walked past the property, but was exposed as a liar. He was not seriously injured.
Mr Holmes said he acted on instinct and didn’t have time to think about the consequences. He praised the police for how they handled the investigation, although he was initially concerned about being charged himself.
‘I never expected to have to shoot a person,’ Mr Holmes said. ‘The first officers who came seemed quite surprised when I said I had shot him. I don’t think they knew what to think. They seemed a bit confused about who they were going to be charging, so they sent officers from CID to take a statement the next day. ‘They said, because he had threatened me, that I should be fine.’
Local councillor Nadine Fudge said of Patterson: ‘Criminals know that they can get away with so much these days and that’s why he called the police.’
Chief Superintendent Rick Proctor, Divisional Commander for Hull, said: ‘Common law states that anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. ‘We would always encourage the public to do what is reasonable to prevent and detect crime, but obviously not put themselves or others at serious risk of harm by doing so.’
British government uneasy that universities will do what the government says they may do
The Coalition is threatening to cut higher education funding to stop universities imposing blanket £9,000 tuition fees. In a direct warning to vice-chancellors, it was claimed the Government would be forced to slash university budgets to cover the increased cost of student loans. David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said serious pressure would be placed on the public purse if institutions attempted to “cluster” fees at the maximum possible level.
The comments come just days after Imperial College London became the first university to formally declare that it wanted to charge a flat rate of £9,000 for degree courses.
Oxford and Cambridge are considering a similar move and it is feared other leading universities will follow suit to maintain teaching standards. Student leaders have also warned that less prestigious institutions will attempt to impose the highest possible fees.
Under higher education reforms, the cap on tuition fees in England is being raised from £3,290 this year to £9,000 in 2012. Universities that want to charge more than £6,000 will be expected to invest more money in bursaries and outreach programmes to attract the poorest students. Financial modelling carried out by the Treasury suggested that universities would charge average fees of £7,500 next year.
In a speech to vice-chancellors on Thursday, Mr Willetts said: “I want to be frank with you: we will all face a problem if the sector tries to cluster at the maximum possible level.”
Under the reforms, students pay nothing while they study as the Treasury provides loans to cover the cost of tuition fees. Only after graduates have started earning £21,000 a year will they begin to repay the loans.
But speaking at Nottingham University, Mr Willetts said the student finance bill would be inflated to unsustainable levels if too many universities charged £9,000 fees – forcing the Government to make cuts elsewhere.
“We set the maximum level at £9,000 because we think there are some circumstances where fees of this level could be justified,” he said. “If graduate contributions end up higher than £7,500, we would reluctantly be forced to find savings from elsewhere in [higher education].”
Mr Willetts also accused universities of “rushing” to impose higher fees even though the extra cash was often not needed. At many universities, the most common courses cost £7,000 a year to run, he said. “Making an assumption of a £9,000 charge and working backwards is the wrong place to start,” he said. He added: “Some universities are rushing to £9,000 without thinking about the impact on students.”
The comments came as the Government published a report setting out plans requiring each university to draw up “student charters”. For the first time, institutions will be expected to give students written guarantees on issues such as support and feedback from tutors, the number of lectures and tutorials and standards of accommodation. Documents – expected to be around two pages long – are expected to give students clearly defined “rights” in exchange for a hike in tuition fees.
The report – by Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, and Prof Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University – said charters would also “help prospective students to get a ‘feel’ for the institution”.
Mr Willetts said: “Students have a right to know how they will learn, how they will be supported and what they need to do themselves to reach their potential. “At a time of significant change in higher education, students have increased expectations of their university experience. I want a system where students have real choice and universities respond to what students need.”
In his speech, Mr Willetts also denied that the Government was requiring each university to admit “quotas” of students from poor backgrounds. A letter last week to the Office for Fair Access from Mr Willetts and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said universities should “broaden access” if they want to charge fees higher than £6,000. Universities can also make lower grade offers to students from poor-performing schools who have the “potential” to perform well.
But he said: “Our letter does not introduce quotas – not one iota of a quota, in fact. That is not what Vince or I envisage at all. Not only would quotas be undesirable – they would be illegal.”