Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Prince attacked for secret health study

Prince attacked for secret health study

STEPHEN MCGINTY

THE PRINCE of Wales was accused of meddling in politics yesterday after it emerged that he is secretly heading a campaign to offer more alternative medicines on the NHS.

Prince Charles, an enthusiast for complementary therapies, has commissioned a report on their benefits in an attempt to influence government policy.

Although its initial findings have been dismissed by Britain's leading expert as "outrageous and deeply flawed", the prince insists wider provision could lead to savings of up to £3.5 billion for the taxpayer.

The report, to be sent to ministers in October, is expected to claim that alternative therapies, such as chiropractic manipulations, could save between £500 million and £3.5 billion if offered on the NHS as standard.

A leaked first draft of its conclusions suggests that up to £480 million could be cut from the prescription drugs bill if 10 per cent of GPs offered homeopathy as an alternative.

However, doctors and MPs questioned whether the heir to the throne should be challenging the government's agenda so directly.

Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary and alternative medicine at the University of Exeter, attacked the report's conclusions. He insisted there had not been enough rigorous studies on the cost effectiveness of complementary treatments and that those which have taken place found they would add to the cost of the NHS.

He said: "It is highly selective in its use of evidence and it looks like the conclusions have been written before everything else. The Prince of Wales also seems to have over-stepped his constitutional role."

The report's author, Christopher Smallwood, a former chief economics adviser to Barclays Bank with no experience in complementary medicine, was approached by a research firm, Fresh Minds, which had been hired by Princes Charles.

Prof Ernst was interviewed for the study, but says his criticisms were then ignored. He has asked for his contribution to be withdrawn from the final document. The leaked report has since been rewritten and it is understood that the prince is still to be shown a copy of it.

Yesterday, the British Homeopathic Association insisted there were cost benefits, claiming that research had shown that GPs who use homeopathy were less likely to prescribe expensive antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and painkillers.

Clarence House defended the prince's role in the study and said he had not sought to influence its conclusions.

Paddy Harverson, the prince's communications secretary, said: "It is inappropriate for anyone to be commenting on the report when it has not even been completed."

However, Evan Harris, science spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "If the prince is going to seek to influence healthcare or science policy he must allow himself to be challenged in debate."





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