Last week, NHS England announced a ban on homeopathy and herbal medicine. Their reason? Paying for the treatments is a “misuse of scarce funds” on something they describe as, at best, “a placebo.” 1 The changes are projected to save at least £250m a year. (Supporters of homeopathy and herbal medicine include Prince Charles and the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.)
Obviously, patients’ groups have expressed some concern. Director of Policy at National Voices, Don Redding said:
“Whilst some treatments are available to purchase over-the-counter, that does not mean that everyone can afford them.
There will be distinct categories of people who rely on NHS funding for prescriptions of remedies that are otherwise available over-the-counter.
Stopping such prescriptions would break with the principle of an NHS ‘free at the point of use’ and would create a system where access to treatments is based on a person’s ability to pay.”2
However, NHS health officials believe that “cash-strapped” clinical commissioning groups shouldn’t fund certain medicines (and 16 other classes of treatment classed as “low value”) because they are ineffective or could easily be bought over the counter. Therefore, patients will be responsible for buying their own treatments for things like indigestion, sore throats, athlete’s foot, cough medicine, cold treatments, eye drops, laxatives, sun screen, omega 3 supplements, lidocaine plasters (band-aids), and fentanyl painkillers (whoa!).
Currently, the NHS spends about £545m (over $700 million) a year on treatments which are available over the counter and often at a significantly lower price than the cost to the NHS.
I’m all for people buying their own band-aids (although since England has socialized medicine, shouldn’t they pay for EVERYTHING health related?) but we will have to wait and see how far this goes. I searched all over for a complete list of items the NHS will no longer pay for but couldn’t find one. I’ll update this story as soon as I find one or one is made available to the public.