Charles in NHS homeopathy row: Prince holds secret meeting with Health Secretary to lobby for treatment denounced by top doctors as ‘witchcraft’
- Pair – both supporters of alternative therapies – met last week
- Jeremy Hunt has been outspoken in his support for homeopathy
- Charles ‘unhappy’ that government plans to set up a register of practitioners of herbal and Chinese medicine have stalled
By Daniel Martin Daily Mail PUBLISHED: 19 July 2013
The Prince and Jeremy Hunt – both strong supporters of alternative therapies – held a meeting at Clarence House last week.
Homeopathy and alternative medicines were on the agenda, according to well-placed sources. The NHS already spends millions each year on alternative medicines, at a time when it is restricting life-saving drugs for those with cancer.
The Prince, who has long been accused of meddling in Government policy, has found a fellow supporter in homeopathy in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (left) – and they met last week to discuss it
Charles is understood to be unhappy that government plans to set up a register of practitioners of herbal and Chinese medicine – designed to give them an element of respectability – have stalled.
But a Labour MP accused the Prince of promoting ‘voodoo medicine’ and both the British Medical Association and the Commons science and technology committee say the NHS should stop funding homeopathic treatments because of a lack of evidence they work.
Despite this, Mr Hunt has been outspoken in his support for homeopathy. In 2007 he signed a Commons motion welcoming the ‘positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals’. He has also defended it in a letter to a constituent.
The Prince has long been accused of meddling in Government policy.
It emerged in 2009 that he had written to eight Whitehall departments in three years. Just this month, the High Court blocked Freedom of Information requests for the letters to be published. Labour MP Paul Flynn said that by promoting ‘voodoo medicine’, Charles was putting himself in a ‘very dangerous position’ because as monarch he will have to be impartial.
‘The head of state, which he will soon be, has to remain above controversy. The only serious job of a head of state is to be above policy,’ Mr Flynn said.
‘If he wishes to lobby ministers, he should stand for Parliament or join a lobbying firm, but he should not be using his position as heir to the throne to do it.
‘There is a danger here for the future of the monarchy, and we have already been denied access to 27 letters he has sent to ministers because they might affect his position as king.
‘If there is any doubt over his suitability to be king, we should know about it.
‘What is worrying is that homeopathy is a completely unscientific form of medicine – it’s voodoo medicine. The pills contain not a single atom of medicine. The Health Secretary should be concentrating on science-based medicine that actually works.’
In 2010, the then Labour Health Minister Mike O’Brien confirmed that Prince Charles had brought up homeopathy in meetings with Andy Burnham, who was then Health Secretary.
Of Charles’s meeting with Mr Hunt, Clarence House said: ‘As confirmed in the court circular, the Prince of Wales received the Secretary of State for Health last week.
‘The Prince meets Government ministers from time to time in his role as heir to the throne as well as Privy Counsellor and this was one of those meetings. There was no specific agenda and a wide range of topics were discussed.’
The Department of Health would not confirm what was discussed. But on the issue of the register of herbal medicines, a spokesman said: ‘The regulation of herbalists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners has been a matter of debate for over ten years.
‘In February 2011 we announced our intention to regulate these practitioners, and since that time we have been working through the issues involved.
‘As a result of the complexity of the outstanding issues, a working group is being established to consider matters relating to patient protection when using unlicensed manufactured herbal products, increasing the use of herbal product licensing to minimise risk to consumers, and to consider how best to ensure these products do not cause harm to consumers.
‘We must make sure that whatever approach is taken addresses any potential risks to consumers as well as the needs of practitioners.’
Earlier this month, advertising watchdogs ruled that practitioners of homeopathy were putting patients at risk by discouraging them from seeking essential medical treatment.
The ASA’s assessment of treatments and claims made by the Society of Homeopaths suggested practitioners were offering false hope and may be causing real harm.
The Society’s website said evidence existed to show homeopathy can treat a wide range of ailments.
But the ASA tested a series of statements and found there was insufficient evidence to support the claimed benefits.
It said several conditions – including bronchitis, osteoarthritis and vertigo – required medical supervision and patients should not rely on homeopathy.
Evidence supplied by the Society to support its claims was not strong enough and ‘misleading’.
The ASA warned the society to stop making claims that are not supported by good evidence.
Society chairman Diane Goodwin insisted that evidence did exist for the benefits of homeopathy, but that the society was prepared to change the way it marketed treatments.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2370754/Charles-NHS-homeopathy-row-Prince-holds-secret-meeting-Health-Secretary-lobby-treatment-denounced-doctors-witchcraft.html#ixzz2ZZJajVL7
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