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DR MAX: Homeopathy worked for me…so why not offer it on the NHS

DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR Homeopathy worked for me…so why not offer it on the NHS

The Prince of Wales caused outrage among the scientific community this week. 

His crime? He’s become patron of the Faculty of Homeopathy, a 175-year-old organisation that promotes this alternative therapy.

Homeopathy has come under sustained attack in recent years from doctors and scientists who say there is absolutely no evidence that it works. These critics have denounced Prince Charles and accuse him of being ‘anti-science’.

Homeopathy is based around the belief that the body can be helped to cure itself, with the aid of infinitesimally small amounts of natural substances, derived from plants and minerals, which, practitioners claim, trigger the healing process.

The Prince of Wales (pictured) caused outrage among the scientific community this week. His crime? He’s become patron of the Faculty of Homeopathy, a 175-year-old organisation that promotes this alternative therapy

But these preparations are so diluted that they typically contain no pharmacologically active substances and so, say scientists, are no better than placebos. 

As a result of this backlash, the NHS has now refused to fund homeopathy on the grounds that because it has finite financial resources, it’s wasteful to pay for homeopathic treatments if there is no evidence they work.

On one level, this is, of course, entirely reasonable — it is only right that taxpayer’s money is spent on treatments that have a demonstrable impact.

But while I agree that homeopathy relies on preposterous theories for which there is no evidence base whatsoever, I don’t try to dissuade my patients who want to seek a homeopath’s help. I’ve even tried homeopathic remedies myself.

You see for some people homeopathy does work. It may well be because of the placebo effect — when a patient believes that a drug or treatment is working despite there being no active therapeutic ingredient involved — but that doesn’t detract from the fact that they say they feel better.

While I agree that homeopathy relies on preposterous theories for which there is no evidence base whatsoever, I don’t try to dissuade my patients who want to seek a homeopath’s help. I’ve even tried homeopathic remedies myself

Many scientists dismiss the placebo effect, but I’m in awe of it. Research shows that it works for about 30 per cent of patients, which is pretty good. 

And the fact that we can get better just because we believe we will is, to me, testament to the astonishing power of the mind.

So if homeopathy makes people feel better, surely it doesn’t matter if that’s down to a genuine pharmacological effect or because of the power of the mind. 

That’s why, for my patients who can no longer access homeopathy on the NHS, I’ve happily written supporting letters to charities that might fund their treatment privately, outlining the benefits it has had for them.

So if homeopathy makes people feel better, surely it doesn’t matter if that’s down to a genuine pharmacological effect or because of the power of the mind

And I’ve benefited, too. In the past, whenever I did live TV, I would take a homeopathic remedy to help me to relax. 

Logically, I knew that it wasn’t doing anything for me in physiological terms, but I still felt that it was helping — and that’s the point. There were no side-effects, and no risk of addiction, so what was the harm?

Every doctor has what we call ‘heart sink’ patients — people who, despite doing everything they can, doctors cannot seem to help. They are often plagued by multiple, vague problems that conventional medicine fails to get on top of.

In my experience, it is often these patients who do well with homeopathy. 

The more subtle approach of a homeopath is what they respond to best. What a pity that, thanks to anti-homeopathy prejudice in the scientific community, the NHS can no longer offer it to them 

Their physical complaints are often manifestations of psychological distress and sitting with a homeopath, having their problems listened to and being treated holistically can be hugely effective.

Some of my colleagues would argue that these patients should be offered psychotherapy. 

But talking therapy isn’t for everyone, especially those who instinctively ‘shut down’ in front of a therapist because they recoil from delving too much into their past. The more subtle approach of a homeopath is what they respond to best.

What a pity that, thanks to anti-homeopathy prejudice in the scientific community, the NHS can no longer offer it to them. 

BMA vote on health tourism is a disgrace

What on earth were delegates of the British Medical Association thinking when they voted overwhelmingly to stop charging foreign patients for NHS treatment on the grounds that it could be construed as ‘racist’?

That was my reaction and the that of every one of the medical colleagues I spoke to after the Mail reported the crazy decision. 

The BMA certainly doesn’t speak for all doctors on this matter, and I believe it is wildly out of touch with thousands of its members and the general public.

The NHS is at breaking point. Targeting of the NHS by people who aren’t entitled to treatment already costs the taxpayer an estimated £200 million to £2 billion a year. 

The BMA is proposing to open up our health service to anyone who can get on a plane, train or boat to come here and receive costly treatment to which they are not entitled

A further estimated £1.8 billion is spent annually on patients from countries with which we have bilateral health care agreements. Much of this is, in theory, recoverable, but in reality only about £100 million is paid back.

This is madness. The BMA is proposing to open up our health service to anyone who can get on a plane, train or boat to come here and receive costly treatment to which they are not entitled. 

After hearing this, imagine how an elderly person in need of cataract surgery might feel when denied an operation — as increasingly many are for budgetary reasons.

I pay a subscription to the BMA to protect me professionally and to lobby the Government on doctors’ behalf. I do not want the BMA to indulge in political point scoring and virtue signalling that will damage the NHS we are committed to serve.

Let’s put addicts in ‘dayhab’, not rehab 

‘Dayhab’ is a new approach to treating patients with drug or alcohol problems being launched in the UK.

It’s an intensive rehab programme run at a day centre, which allows patients to live at home during treatment, and it’s being pioneered by a former government adviser who helped comedian Russell Brand come off heroin. 

Under the name Help Me Stop, the first private centre opens in West London next month.

I’m a great fan of this approach, having experienced it while working in an NHS day programme for patients with eating disorders.

‘Dayhab’ is an intensive rehab programme run at a day centre, which allows patients to live at home during treatment, and it’s being pioneered by a former government adviser who helped comedian Russell Brand (pictured) come off heroin

I think the NHS should adopt it for drug and alcohol addiction, too. Not only is it cheaper than residential rehabilitation, it has huge psychological benefits.

When I worked with drug addicts, many patients and their families would push for residential rehabilitation, believing it to be a sure-fire way to beat the addiction.

But such placements had their drawbacks — and I was never convinced they were effective in the long term. 

Sure, while the addict was in rehab, they would often abstain from drugs. But once back home, surrounded by the same people and triggers associated with their habit, they would soon relapse.

Dayhab has the advantage of helping people manage their addictions in their everyday environment, so they can make lifestyle changes that will last.

A vaccine triumph

In a major review in the Lancet this week, scientists predict that cervical cancer could soon be eradicated. 

This is entirely thanks to the introduction of the HPV vaccine, which protects against the human papilloma virus that causes the vast majority of cervical cancers.

This is an extraordinary achievement — just over a decade after the start of the NHS programme to immunise teenage girls.

Thanks to vaccination, yet another deadly disease could soon be confined to the history books. 

But what a tragedy that the so-called ‘anti-vaxxer’ brigade, is now growing in strength worldwide. When will they realise how wrong they are?

In a major review in the Lancet this week, scientists predict that cervical cancer could soon be eradicated. This is an extraordinary achievement — just over a decade after the start of the NHS programme to immunise teenage girls

Dr Max perscribes… This is going to hurt on stage

Author and comedian Adam Kay has adapted his best-selling book This Is Going To Hurt, about his time as a junior doctor, into a stage show, now touring the country. 

Poignant and hilarious, he gives a brilliant insight into hospital life.

Laughter is the best medicine and if this show is anything like his book, it will be a real tonic. Details at adamkay.co.uk 

A paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology says we really do want to ‘shoot the messenger’ bearing bad news. 

The reason is rooted in evolution; we need to protect ourselves from awful events, and so if we blame the harbingers of doom, it provides an outlet — however unjustified — for our upset.

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