Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Sugar pills and magic water on the NHS

In a report published last month the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons concluded that:
By providing homeopathy on the NHS and allowing MRHA licensing of products which subsequently appear on pharmacy shelves, the Government runs the risk of endorsing homeopathy as an efficaceous system of medicine. To maintain patient trust, the Government should not endorse the use of placebo treatments, including homeopathy. Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products.

This was a strong and unambiguous statement. In response, the homeopaths and their associations, understandably worried, came up with some muddled ravings, while others, speaking from positions of profound ignorance, rallied to their support.

Foremost among these was David Tredinnick, who is Conservative MP for Bosworth. He is known as the man who used parliamentary expenses to buy astrology software and training from ‘Crucial Astro Tools’, and has called in the Commons for the government to support medical astrology, to provide government funding of various kinds of quackery within the NHS and to use legislation to support quacks in their work.

This egregious fruitcake introduced an Early Day Motion to Parliament on 23rd February, expressing concern at the Select Committee's conclusions, and asserting that the report took insufficient account of the evidence. Anyone who believes that such protestations from the quacks are worth supporting should first study the Select Committee's official report (or at any rate skim through it: it runs to 216 pages, including the formal minutes, verbatim records of the proceedings and notes of the statements submitted in writing).

A number of simple-minded MPs have signed this motion to indicate their approval of Tredinnick's preposterous ideas. Andy Lewis has dissected their idiocy and D.C Colquhoun provides a handy list of the signatories. Many of them, happily, will not be returning to the House of Commons after May, and when the Parliamentary candidates have been announced we shall be able to see which of Tredinnick's deluded supporters are up for election. We might call this The Stupid List.

Voters in those constituencies which might elect one of them can then consider carefully whether they really want to be represented in Parliament by an MP who believes in magic potions which contain no active ingredient.

There is an e-Petition to the Prime Minister asking that the government implements the recommendations in the report as soon as possible. It has already acquired 1626 signatures; the closing date for signing is 24th February next year, so there is plenty of time to add your name, although we may hope that whatever government we get in May will have taken action long before then.

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