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Alternative Medicines (NHS)

Volume 576: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2014

7. What proportion of medicines prescribed in the NHS are alternative medicines; and what the annual cost is of dispensing such prescriptions. (902630)

The net ingredient cost to the NHS of homeopathic preparations dispensed in the community in England was £143,000 in 2012, which represents 0.002% of the overall NHS prescription cost in the community for the same period. The prescription cost analysis data from which we extract this information do not separately identify other alternative medicines.

I thank the Minister for that answer. At the urging of Councillor John Nicholson, Isle of Wight council has asked the health and wellbeing board to recognise the value of alternative and complementary therapies and elect a representative to the board. Will the Minister and her Department work with that representative to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of such treatments?

I am aware that there has been interest in this matter in my hon. Friend’s clinical commissioning group. The provision of alternative and complementary therapies is decided by CCGs, which have to take into account National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance and local health needs and priorities. The responsibility is with CCGs to achieve value for money and to make sure that they are delivering improvements in the quality of care and patient outcomes, and it is against those standards that we would expect them to measure those therapies.

In the past 12 months there has been great advancement in new medications and alternative medicines, with new drugs for multiple sclerosis, for type 2 diabetes and for hepatitis C, and advancements in heart operations, rare diseases, and so on. Will the Minister indicate the time scale for the announcement of new medications and their availability on the NHS?

The hon. Gentleman, who follows these matters closely, is aware that medicines go through a process by which they are approved and recommended. Once they are in that position, it is, as I say, down to CCGs to make decisions about which treatments are appropriate for their patients and to measure them against the standards that I laid out.

I congratulate right hon. Friends on setting up the herbal working group to improve regulation of herbal medicine and its practitioners. Is the Minister aware that there is a problem of supply, in that most people have to pay for their herbal medicine and it is not necessarily available from clinical commissioning groups? Will she issue guidance? Perhaps we should have a mapping exercise in order to understand where the demand is in this country.

As I have just said, there is guidance for CCGs on how to operate in the area of alternative and complementary therapies and we have no current plans to add to that guidance.