Archive for category 10:23

Merseyside Skeptics Society welcomes NHS Liverpool CCG’s Decision To Re-Think Homeopathy Funding

3736069_1426544235.2609_funddescription-300x225As reported in the Liverpool Echo today, NHS Liverpool CCG recently decided to reverse their decision to continue funding homeopathy after a successful legal challenge by our friends at the Good Thinking Society. As a result of the challenge, Liverpool CCG has elected to re-consult on the matter – a decision we at the Merseyside Skeptics Society wholeheartedly support.

As a Merseyside-based critical thinking group with a large number of members who live within the jurisdiction of Liverpool CCG, we believe it is time that our local NHS services were no longer burdened with the need to provide ineffective sugar pills to the unwell – not least at a time when NHS budgets are under great pressure. Since our inception in 2009 we have campaigned to spread awareness about the pseudoscientific nature of homeopathy and the clear failure of any homeopath to find credible evidence that homeopathic remedies are of any benefit at all, and we sincerely believe it is unacceptable for taxpayer funds to be wasted on treatments that have been comprehensively shown to be ineffective.

Liverpool CCG’s decision is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to the upcoming consultation with hope that a fair and sensible decision will be made, reflecting the lack of evidence for homeopathy and the need to offer the people of Liverpool quality healthcare founded on good evidence-based practices.

MSS President Mike Hall said of the decision: “Homeopaths have claimed that skeptics reject homeopathy because we don’t understand how it works. While the proposed mechanism of homeopathy is indeed nonsensical, we do not reject it for this reason. We reject it because in 200 years it has never been shown to have a reliable effect on the course of any medical condition. With an ageing and expanding population, it is right and proper to insist that our NHS funds only those treatments with a proven benefit for patients.”

Donate with JustGivingWe urge our supporters – and indeed anyone who wants to see NHS allocate their limited resources to treatments that have any hope of helping patients – to support Good Thinking’s campaign against wasting taxpayer funds on these ineffective and disproven treatments. Good Thinking are currently crowdfunding in order to mount further legal challenges similar to this successful one in Liverpool, and supporters can donate to the campaign online.

Update:  Liverpool CCG has been in touch to ask us to make clear that homeopathy services are not being immediately withdrawn. Rather, they intent to return the decision to continue funding homeopathy to the consultation stage. Homeopathy will still be available during the consultation.

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A lovely letter from a homeopathy user

On a recent episode of our podcast, we talked about an email we received from a pro-homeopathy visitor to the 10:23 website. What made this email particularly noteworthy was how polite, genuine and respectful it was (a far cry from the usual email we get to 10:23).

Since the show went out, I’ve had several requests from people to publish the email and my reply. So here it is in full, save for the redaction of Emily’s full name and email address.

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Some thoughts on Project Barnum

Project Barnum has caused a bit of a stir within the skeptical community in recent days.

Detractors claim that Project Barnum is illiberal and seeks to censor those they disagree with.  Supporters say that it is about consumer protection, preventing the unscrupulous (or even merely misguided) from making money by telling people they can do things that they can’t.

Parallels have been drawn, by both sides, with the 10:23 Campaign.  Critics of 10:23 similarly claimed the campaign was illiberal, and supporters claimed that it was about consumer protection, preventing the unscrupulous (or even merely misguided) from making money by telling people their pills can do things that they can’t.
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Homeopathy in the Wirral: RIP

As I’ve covered previously, the position of homeopathy on the NHS in the Wirral region has been under review, with the Professional Executive Committee evaluating the future continuation of the 200-year-old non-science in the wake of dwindling patient interest.

Following the open meeting of March 10th to discuss proposals to cut homeopathy from the budget, the PEC collected their thoughts and formally presented them to the Wirral NHS Board. This meeting took place on the 22 March 2011, and unsurprisingly attracted the attention of the North West ‘Friends’ of Homeopathy, whose very vocal envoy John Cook persuaded the board to allow him to present his objections to their proposal. Readers of the previous blog or listeners to Skeptics with a K will know John well, and his forthright advocacy style.

Fortunately, a local councillor is a supporter and friend of the MSS, and he was able to equally persuade the board to allow an external voice of support into the meeting to counter the objections of the homeopathic lobby – which is why I found myself called upon to give a 5-minute speech in favour of disposing with the sugar pills once and for all.

The exact text of the speech is presented below, and my opportunity to present it came immediately after 5 minutes from the homeopaths, in which the main thrust of their argument was:

  • The consultation process had not been as robust as one would hope (essentially attempting to get off on a technicality)
  • Homeopathy does indeed work and there is science to prove it
  • Homeopathy is used by 10% of the population (a somewhat spurious figure brilliantly put into context by the board, who pointed out that the 60 affected patients in the Wirral each year are in fact just 0.02% of the population)
  • Those who seek to end funding for homeopathy are in fact attempting to ban it, with similar zeal to the calls to rid the world from smallpox.

I’ve no doubt that John will be able to offer a fuller clarification of these points below, and I welcome him doing so if he so wishes. Following this argument, I took to the rather official-looking table with it’s little microphone, the eyes of the board upon me, and began: Read the rest of this entry »

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Homeopathy Plus, Radiation Poisoning and Japan (Yes, You Guessed Correctly)

Having written about and campaigned against homeopathy extensively in the past, I’ve seen a number of counter-arguments and issues raised by people who either disagree with the 10:23 Campaign (primarily homeopaths, admittedly). The one which crops up most regularly and seem to have, at least on the surface, the most sway is: if homeopathy IS just a placebo, is that so bad? Placebos, after all, can be shown to have an effect, and if judicially used could form a perfectly legitimate part of mainstream healthcare.

Persuasive as this sounds, the answer is actually pretty simple – leaving aside the implications for doctor-patient trust (handing out pills known to be ineffective and claiming they’re medicine definitely doesn’t gel with the important notion of informed consent), incorporating homeopathy into proven medicine lends the modality legitimacy, which can lead to things like this (screencapped from an email):

Homeopathy Plus

Even after all this time, homeopathy still leaves me speechless sometimes.

Following the link from that alert takes you to the Homeopathy Plus website, with their advice on how to deal with the side effects of Chemotherapy – advice they believe to be equally applicable to radiation poisoning. Just to make it absolutely clear, as if I even needed to, there is a HUGE difference between the side-effects experienced after having a well-controlled, targeted and managed dose of chemotherapy to fight cancer, and being randomly exposed to an uncontrolled amount radiation following a damaged nuclear power plant. It goes without saying that this is irresponsible and dangerous advice, and by all means it should be ignored. Read the rest of this entry »

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NHS Wirral and The North West Friends Of Homeopathy: A Typical Wednesday Evening Out

I’ve had a rather interesting evening. Last week, MSS member and local councillor Darren Dodds alerted me to the fact that Wirral NHS were holding an open meeting to discuss whether to continue funding homeopathy in the region, with the recommendation being very much ‘No, we absolutely shouldn’t’. Needless to say, I agree with this recommendation, and wanted to go along to let them know that I – and by extension the hundred or more local MSS members – applaud their step in the right direction. Interested parties should read the report they came up with, it’s really pretty good. Some highlights:

The paper concludes that the lack of evidence on efficacy and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic therapies means that it should not be a high priority for the PCT at this time. It is recommended that NHS Wirral does not commission homeopathictherapies.

The key risk is that NHS Wirral fails to maintain its reputation as an evidence-based commissioning PCT.

Excellent stuff. Still, it seems we weren’t the only ones made aware of the open meeting – also invited were patients currently or formerly using homeopathy, and the ‘North West Friends of Homeopathy‘. This latter group are most interesting, and I’ll come back to them a little later in more detail, but first it’s worth pointing out that I appeared on local radio with a member of the group on Monday morning, in an exchange that might amuse, and will certainly give a far better impression of who John Cook is than I could ever do justice with words. UK-based readers can listen here, it starts around the 2hour 13minute mark and lasts about 10 minutes. I’ll wait.

For those not able, willing or interested in listening, what we have from John is a charming ability to hog a conversation, and the maniacal insistence that the date of the meeting was aired. Clearly, John wanted his supporters to arrive mob-handed. Fair enough, he probably feels he has a strong case. As it was, when I arrived with a couple of other MSS members there were maybe 40 or so people present, a number which I presume to be in excess of the general norm for these meetings.

John, having lobbied for inclusion, was amongst the speakers, joined by Dr. Hugh Neilsen BA MA BM BCh MRCP FFHom (it’s worth pointing out that his name is actually Hugh Nielsen, and the NWFoH’s own website, while painstaking in it’s detail of Hugh’s many qualifications, mispells the name of their own president), and the panel was completed by two local GPs who were involved in making the recommendation, and who spent the evening ranging between bemused, compassionate and at times startled. Startled, not least, by the quite spectacular opening by John, the homeopath’s friend (which I imagine is rather like a Fisherman’s Friend, but lacking in clout), in which he directed a quite flattering string of insults at me directly, and at the Merseyside Skeptics Society. Read the rest of this entry »

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