The Case for Homeopathy

Dr Susan McAllion makes the case for homeopathy in the NHS

Scotland has a long and happy association with homeopathy. In 1880 a dispensary was opened which gave free treatment to the poor. The first homeopathic hospital in Glasgow opened in 1914 and after several moves it is now located on the Gartnavel site.

There are also homeopathic hospitals in London and Bristol and all three hospitals have been part of the NHS since it began in 1948.The hospitals and NHS clinics (of which there are several in Scotland) treat tens of thousands of patients per year who are referred by GPs, PCTs and NHS specialists.

Four of five major comprehensive reviews of RCTs in homeopathy have reached broadly positive conclusions.1-4 Based on a smaller selection of trials, a fifth review came to a negative conclusion about homeopathy.5 In 2005, the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital carried out the largest service evaluation of homeopathic treatment so far, which reported that 70% of 6,500 follow-up patients experienced improvement in their health. Many had tried conventional treatment first without success.

The most recent hospitals outcome study confirms the positive findings of earlier studies. A total of 1,602 patients were seen at follow-up appointments in UK NHS homeopathic hospitals during one month in 2007. The study found that eczema is currently the most common referral to homeopathy by NHS doctors. Other commonly treated complaints were chronic fatigue, menopausal disorder and osteoarthritis.

In the UK there are over 400 GPs practising homeopathy who are regulated by the GMC and are members of the Faculty of Homeopathy. They treat around 200,000 NHS patients per year with homeopathy. Homeopathic medicines are very safe .The vast majority of adverse effects reported in clinical trials were temporary aggravations of symptoms or other mild and transient effects. Homeopathic remedies are cheap. The available evidence suggests that homeopathy has the potential to generate savings through reduced conventional prescribing and demand for other services.

In France, where homeopathy is an integral part of the healthcare system, a government report showed that the total cost of care per patient receiving homeopathic treatment was 15% less than the cost of treatment provided by conventional physicians.

Homeopathy doesn’t interfere with conventional medicine and should be seen as a complementary treatment, not as an alternative. In fact, homeopathic and conventional treatments can work very well alongside each other. This approach also gives patients more treatment choices. NHS homeopathic doctors are medically trained as well as being members of the Faculty of Homeopathy. They are statutorily registered with the General Medical Council . They are bound to act within the competence of their profession and their level of training and qualifications in homeopathy.

Homeopathy has been under attack from a small number of scientists and science journalists. Unfortunately this has resulted in a polarisation of views on the subject.

One criticism is that the effect of high dilutions is implausible with no basis in real science. There is an increasing amount of laboratory research that is extending our understanding of how such dilutions work and scientists have admitted surprise at their own findings. To summarise, homeopathy is a safe, cost effective complementary therapy which should be available to all in the NHS.

Dr Susan McAllion is a retired NHS homeopathic doctor and a past Treasurer of SHA Scotland.


1. Kleijnen J, Knipschild P, ter Riet G. Clinical trials of homeopathy. Br Med J 1991; 302: 316–23.
2. Linde K, Clausius N, Ramirez G, et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. Lancet 1997; 350: 834–43.
3. Linde K, Scholz M, Ramirez G, et al. Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo controlled trials of homeopathy. J Clin Epidemiol 1999; 52: 631–6.
4. Cucherat M, Haugh MC, Gooch M, Boissel JP. Evidence of clinical efficacy of homeopathy – A meta-analysis of clinical trials. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 2000; 56: 27–33.
5. Shang A, Huwiler-Muntener K, Nartey L, et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy.
Lancet 2005; 366: 726–32.

From Healthier Scotland: the Journal

SHA and homeopathy