Homeopathy on the NHS in Liverpool: thriving or moribund?

Water dropJust what is the current state of NHS provision in Liverpool, birthplace of the 10:23 campaign against homeopathy and my current residence? As a skeptic and ardent 10:23 swallower, I was very happy to learn from Andy Lewis on Quackometer that the Liverpool Homeopathic Hospital has closed. This seemed to happen without any fanfare from the NHS or wailing from homeopathy sympathisers. In fact, the British Homeopathic Association appeared to simply remove the name of the hospital from it’s own website. If you’re interested, you can see that both Liverpool and the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital were listed on the same page in 2009.

So far, so good. No NHS Homeopathic Hospital in Liverpool, homeopathy in retreat. However, a short while later I learned from the Faculty of Homeopathy that NHS homeopathy was in fact “thriving” in Liverpool:

A new clinic is now providing homeopathic treatment to NHS patients in Liverpool. The Liverpool Medical Homeopathy Service (LMHS) operates from the Old Swan Health Centre in Old Swan and is staffed by medically trained homeopaths. Patients can gain NHS access to the service through a letter of referral from their GP.

Liverpool PCT is commissioning the new service from the LMHS which is a Community Interest Company, a limited company created to provide a service for the benefit of the community and not purely for private advantage. The setting up of the clinic also highlights the new approach to commissioning NHS services being adopted as part of the government’s NHS reforms.

The rest of the article quotes the Clinical Director at LMHS, one Dr Hugh Nielsen, who trots out the usual argument from antiquity and the ‘patient satisfaction’ red herring. I remember Dr. Hugh Nielsen BA MA BM BCh MRCP FFHom (not sure which one of those bachelors, masters, memberships and fellowships allow him to be called Dr) from the NHS Wirral consultation on homeopathy, so it’s not at all surprising that he’s trying to continue the tradition of treating people with sugar pills!

As you might expect, I was rather perturbed by this. I wanted to find out more. I could find very little information about the new service on the internet, so I thought I’d have a go at writing a Freedom of Information request to my local PCT. This is what I asked for:

I have read that the Liverpool PCT now commissions homeopathic services from the Liverpool Medical Homeopathy Service (LMHS) based at the Old Swan Health Centre. Is this true, and if so how much money is being spent on it?

The yesterday, I was glad to see that my request had been answered:

I can confirm that there is a homeopathy service based at Old Swan called the Liverpool Medical Homeopathy Service (LMHS). The service operates under any qualified provider arrangements. This means that no level of income or activity is guaranteed. Payment to the Provider is based on the number of patients attending the service who are referred by their GP. Referral into the service is only via primary care. The service commenced 1st November 2011; to date we have not received a request for payment from the provider.

Now, I’m no expect on healthcare provision and I’d appreciate some more insights, but I found this reply intriguing. Firstly, it’s plain confirmation that the LMHS service does indeed exist, but it’s NHS funding is based solely on the number of people referred to it. The reply is dated December 29th 2011 and the service commenced on November 1st 2011, and as of yet the LMHS has not requested any payment from the PCT. Am I wrong to think that no payments = no patients? Homeopathy thriving in Liverpool, indeed.

2 Comments

  1. Warren

    Interesting post Tom.

    Is it worth finding out how payments are processed? Could payment requests be by quarter, annually etc or simply on a case by case basis?

    If the service only started in November does the information provided in the response apply from the date of your enquiry, the date of response or some other date (and perhaps exclude more recent payments)?

    Also, are there any other costs associated with the running of the ‘hospital’ outside of patient referrals. I notice it does say “payment to the Provider is based on the number of patients attending the service who are referred by their GP” yet I assume this would not necessary exclude some minimum cost.

    Anyway, good sleuthing Mr Williamson!

  2. Joanne

    Please note that the above mentioned Dr Hugh Nielsen is a fully qualified medical practitioner with a licence to practice. This information is fully available and accessible through the GMC List of Registered Medical Practitioners.

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