NHS England is planning to stop the prescribing of homeopathy as part of new guidance for CCGs on medicines that can be considered to be of low priority for funding.

Homeopathy is a new item on the list of possible low-value medicines that GPs will be banned from prescribing.

Originally, NHS England said that it would review just 10 items, but it has added eight new treatments, including homeopathy and herbal treatments.

It has also said that it is reviewing over 3,200 products that could be purchased over the counter (OTC). It is consulting on the proposals until 21 October.

The original consultation document failed to include homeopathy in its treatments that should be banned.

'Misuse of funds'

However, following a consultation, a paper presented on Friday’s (21 July) NHS England board meeting said: ‘NHS England’s view is that, at best, homeopathy is a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds which could better be devoted to treatments that work.

‘Data on the residual use and cost of homeopathy on the NHS are hard to come by. A recent Freedom of Information request by a third party suggested that at least £578,000 has been spent on prescribed homeopathy over the past five years, with the total cost being higher than that when the cost of consultations was factored in.’

'We can no longer shy away'

Talking at the NHS England Board meeting, NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said: ’I think this (homeopathy) has been an issue that has concerned scientific professionals for a long period of time.

‘We can no longer shy away from addressing this particular issue. If we want our NHS to be evidence based and outcomes focused, then we must expect to have difficult conversations over difficult issues.’

Gluten-free foods are subject to a separate consultation by the DH, NHS England said.

'Great significance' to pharmacy

Commenting on the publication of the consultation document, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Serrvices Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said: ‘This consultation is clearly of importance to community pharmacy, but the consideration of future restrictions on the prescribing of products that are available OTC is of great significance.

‘PSNC will be considering the consultation at its meetings in early October and we will then respond to the consultation. We will publish our consultation response as soon as possible after the meeting, as it may help inform the responses of Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPCs) and pharmacy contractors to the consultation.’

A version of this article originally appeared on Pulse.