Principle 4 of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) Constitution states “It should support individuals to promote and manage their own health. NHS services must reflect, and should be coordinated around and tailored to, the needs and preferences of patients, their families and their carers.” If so, why has it been found necessary to undertake a review of these services that will, in effect, restrict fundamental patient choice and preferences while at the same time contravening its own Constitution?

We set out below the key aspects of our response to this extraordinarily short-sighted consultation.

The NHS game plan to remove natural medicine 

The consultation proposes the removal of NHS patients’ access to the following natural medicines as items of low ‘clinical effectiveness’, despite growing demand from patients for these interventions:

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin
  • Herbal medicine
  • Lutein and antioxidants
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Homeopathy

However, the lack of an understood mechanism is completely irrelevant to any decision over whether an item should be available for prescription or not. What is relevant are: (1) evidence of benefit, (2) potential safety concerns and (3) – perhaps most tellingly – patient demand.  We are greatly concerned that there is a clear lack of consistent application of evidence and clinically based risk/benefit assessment in relation to alternative options in selecting items for removal. This allows biases to occur, with some items that involve negligible spend being itemised (e.g. herbal medicine and not just traditional herbal registered [THR] products) and other items being omitted.

UK citizens are so concerned about the restriction of these rights they started a petition in protest, calling on the Government and NHS to allow ongoing prescription of the targeted natural therapies.  Despite the consultation still being open, as the petition had reached a trigger point of 10,000 signatures, the Department of Health chose to respond in a definitive manner, appearing to endorse the furthered restriction of patient choice.

Find out in our Call to Action below why UK citizens and residents must write to their MP now and ensure this top-down, undemocratic and discriminatory restriction of freedom of choice must be stopped. NOW!

Lack of evidence?

Despite the consultation’s assertions that there is a lack of robust evidence of clinical effectiveness or there are significant safety concerns, there are in fact many studies that underpin the efficacy and safety of the natural medicines under review.

Substantial evidence exists of benefit from multiple studies for glucosamine and chondroitin, including the assessment of the Cochrane Collaboration, plus a corresponding very low risk of side effects for patients with osteoarthritis.

A powerful example lies in St John’s wort as a treatment of mild depression. The balance of evidence shows St John’s wort is at least as effective as SSRI drugs and at least as important – the safety profile was on par with placebo, which implies a considerably more beneficial risk/benefit profile than ‘conventional’ SSRI treatment.

While the 2017 Cochrane review is cited as the primary reason for dropping lutein and antioxidants for treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the review blatantly neglects key studies using optimal combinations or dosages of nutrients for eye health. Much more importantly, AREDS2 (also 2017) shows a positive effect against AMD, demonstrating a clear benefit between naturally sourced remedies and this condition.

The groups proposal to advise Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that prescribers in primary care should not initiate Omega-3 Fatty Acids for any new patient, and to advise CCGs to support prescribers in deprescribing Omega-3 Fatty acids in all patients and, where appropriate, ensure the availability of relevant services to facilitate this change is viewed as deeply irresponsible in the face of all the available science. There is especially strong scientific evidence from human trials that omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements (EPA + DHA) significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels.

It’s not about cost saving

Approximately £9.2 billion was spent on prescription medicines in the UK last year. Were this consultation really about achieving value for money and safety of treatments, as stated in the guidelines, there are many other items that should be included. As can be seen in the graph below, the cost of the therapies under threat is negligible compared to that of the costs of drugs that serve a similar therapeutic purpose.

Data source: NHS Digital

What should be of most importance is the cost saving to be made by the NHS by empowering people through the use of these natural therapies to take more responsibility for their own health thereby reducing the burden on an already overburdened system.

Call to Action

  • Find and write to your MP and tell him or her that you find it outrageous that the NHS is ignoring principle 4 of its own Constitution as well as ignoring patient needs and preferences in its plan to remove glucosamine and chondroitin, fish oils, lutein and antioxidants, herbal medicine and homeopathic products from its line-up. Once these therapies are gone from the NHS they are gone.
  • Sign the petition to stop NHS England from removing herbal and homeopathic medicines
  • Please share widely with all your friends and colleagues so they can also express their outrage at this blatant disregard for patient needs and preferences

Comments

  1. The NHS have now gone too far , the constant bad press that natural medicine is having through mass media is chronic and defies belief . I am a practitioner of Zen Shiatsu and I will do my utmost to defend what is our right to natural ways of healing those who are in need . I will definitely be emailing MP’s , MEP’s about this constant battle that we are now facing . Natural medicine is far older than conventional as many of us know already and has been proven to do far more good than many modern drugs . I can say that truth will win every time , I say to everyone that please do your best to get the word out that we are not going to take this kind of treatment and lies, and that if they want a fight they’ve got one .

    1. Thanks so much Paul, for your comment and your action. We need more people to make their feelings known to their MPs – and for the time being, their MEPs. As we move closer to Brexit, it becomes essential to include MPs in these issues given that sovereignty is being returned to Westminster. We too will be lobbying hard in Westminster because natural healthcare approaches that include diet and lifestyle modification is the answer for an overburdened and ailing NHS!
      Best
      Meleni

  2. The NHS is toxic!

    Nutritiional supplements and herbs actually support the body and help protect and repair in that they go the source of the problem and start to address that and to heal.

    Placing good products with the NHS will result in the NHS and big pharma making these good products TOXIC.

    WHAT IS NEEDED is CHOICE.

    There should be an ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ choice to the NHS. Those that opt out do not pay taxes to support the NHS but retain their taxes and sort out their own health care.

    SIMPLE!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Choice is definitely the key word here as freedom of health choice is really one of our in alienable birthrights. As citizens we can still stand up for our rights by making our feelings and desires known to our elected representatives in Westminster.
      Best
      Meleni

  3. Is it not also worth noting the impact of so called “safe & effective” pharmaceuticals. We have seen the figures from the US where such high numbers of people are harmed or killed by such drugs. It would be interesting to see the figures for the UK.
    Then there is the overall cost of these prescribed medications…. instead of trying to penny pinch at the bottom end of the expenditure shouldn’t the NHS be looking at the top end…. £266,50,175 on anti-depressants is outrageous! (My GP suggested I took up more exercise when I was feeling very low – it worked! Not that I would have willingly taken addictive toxic prescription anti-depressants). I have to add I have no doubt that many people need help with depression, but just the cost justify the means especially when there are better lower cost methods available. ‘It has to Evidence based’ I hear well tosh I say! Evidence is available but it is from a different model and not always done as a mathematical equation or in a test tube which is deliberately narrow field science to suit those making a profit.

    Follow the money… those with fat profits to loose are the power behind the restriction of access to natural healing methods (and most likely the attacks on homeopathy etc). The NHS is now little more than a puppet of the profit machine.

    It appears that the public have forgotten the NHS is a public service and it belongs to us THE PUBLIC not big business powered CONventional medicine.

  4. NHS BrEXIT Next how dare they can they copy the EU SUPPLEMENTS DIRECTIVE they need to suspend this plan protect public rights to choose natural health food supplements & homopathic vitamins lets push hard to block this NHS herbal health ban attempt. S.O.S ???SAVE OUR SUPPLEMENTS – – 1st Big Phama & EU blame now shortage & price increase & loss of uk supplements now N.H.S ?warns No Herbal Supplements death wishes more like far from it. ?Sign up at councils raise issues for NHS EU Supplements Referedrum ????Vote Save our Healthfood Supplements cause for concern ✊??right to buy

  5. I voted for Brexit to get away from EU controls.
    Get rid of pharmaceuticals and people will actually recover rather than be trapped in symptomatic treatments that escalate .

  6. Give the crappy NHS some value. Phase out pharmaceutical drugs and the associated bribery. Bring in fresh talent and more nature based therapies than actually work and help people to recover.

  7. Haven’t had an antibiotic in 41 years. I eat good quality food which is the ultimate preventative medicine. My hobby is looking into “alternatives” and I use a variety of these to nip any illness in the bud before it gets hold. It works for me.
    I am obviously an expert patient.
    The NHS needs to include these alternatives and rediscover the effective old wives remedies. They work and they are extremely cheap.

  8. I’m confused – what exactly is the NHS trying to stop? The use of herbal medicine etc full stop or just within the NHS? Because I didn’t think herbal Medicine and the other points above were available on the NHS anyway?

    1. Hi Rosie

      Herbal medicine, homeopathy, Glucosamine and chondroitin, omega 3 fatty acids and lutein and antioxidants are currently available through the NHS. The NHS wants to stop prescribing these therapies through their services due to what they deem “lack of robust evidence of clinical effectiveness or there are significant safety concerns”, despite there being studies to the contrary.

      This is in direct contravention of their own Constitution, which aims to empower patients to “promote and manage their own health”.

      Warm Regards
      Melissa

  9. I was very upset & frustrated last week to be told that the chemotherapy my husband was about to embark on should be allowed to be as toxic as possible – no antioxidants, no vitamins, no omega three oils, no products with even good bacteria e.g. such as yogurt or I guess fermented foods and probiotics… can the latter not be guaranteed as beneficial as they fear pathogenic properties might cause an infection or virus….whilst we are told these antioxidants it seems may reduce toxicity therefore efficacy of the chemo (altho there is insignificant research into possible reactions between drugs the emphasis but no no no to natural things that may help immunity) Meanwhile my husband was given multiple medications like anti sickness drugs and steroids to combat side effects of the chemo. Its seems bizarre to me 🙁 and i’m very troubled by this.

  10. Dear NHS, you need public support, so please don’t alienate those of us who care about harmless natural healthcare rather than the business bucks involved with pharmaceutical dependence.
    At the very least, please offer us a choice.

  11. I am a herbalist and a nurse with the NHS I am constantly frustrated by the lack of understanding of natural effective practices. I was taught Ayurvedic medicine by a gynaecologist who seamlessly blended the 2 using surgery when absolutely necessary and Ayurvedic medicine alongside I was taught Chinese medicine by a practitioner who enthused about the blend of eastern and western medicine and how they work together – on PICU I wasn’t even allowed to use reiki to support patients. There is no question or doubt in my mind that for chronic illness there is no better alternative than natural therapy (auto immune and the dreaded c word) for general health and well being and dis- ease avoidance natural practices are king – don’t come to me with your arm severed you need a surgeon for that – don’t come to me with acute meningitis you need Iv antibiotics for that if you are haemorrhaging in child birth you need emergency treatment – I not stupid – both need to gel together for the enhancement of health and well being – look at us as a population – obese toxic angry greedy lazy sick and who controls us? Pharmaceuticals – they want us long term sick it makes money! Wake up people and smell the roses! There are alternatives!

    1. Hi Nicola

      Thank you for such a great illustration of how natural medicine and allopathic medicine systems can (and should) work together to support patient health and choice, as set out in the NHS Constitution. As you say it’s not about one over the other, they should blend and compliment each other, working together to bring patients to optimal health, rather than leaving us sick and reliant on more and more toxic medications.

      Warm Regards
      Melissa

  12. I am a Naturopath with a solid practice. Why do people come to consult (through word of mouth)? Because it works! It worked for their friends and families. I am a French citizen and have always been impressed by the open-mindedness if the UK vis a vis natural therapies. Do not fllow the European directive, it is a scam!

  13. As A Nurse, Midwife Homeopath and Herbalist, . I find this argument sickening. The client comes to us when they have had no answers from Allopathic medicine. Surely this is the patient’s choice about whom Big Pharma do not care.

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