Homeopathy may be falling out of favour, with prescriptions down by half in two years and budget spending reduced by 46%.
Figures obtained by the Pulse newspaper showed that only 37% of 132 primary care trusts still had contracts for homeopathic services.
Meanwhile, GPs wrote 49,300 prescriptions in 2007, down from 83,000 in 2005, statistics from the Prescription Pricing Authority showed.
The spend on homeopathy fell to £321,000 in 2007 – 0.006% of the total prescribing budget – compared with £593,000 in 2005.
Homeopathy is based on diluting substances in water or alcohol – to the point, some scientists argue, that they are unlikely to contain any active ingredients at all.
In 2006, a group of British scientists wrote to NHS trusts recommending they reject funding for such “unproven or disproved treatments”.
Dr Tim Robinson, a GP who provides a local homeopathic service in Dorset, said: “Patients are not asking for it because of what has been written in the press and this also reflects the disillusionment of medical homeopaths with the system and cuts in funding from PCTs.”
A spokeswoman for the British Homeopathic Association and Faculty of Homeopathy said about 200,000 NHS patients were treated with homeopathy annually and homeopathic hospitals provided 55,000 appointments a year.
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British Homeopathic Association
“With prescriptions costing £7.10 per item, it is possible, even probable, that many GPs are recommending patients to purchase their own remedies direct from pharmacies or manufacturers as this would be much cheaper. Funding cuts from PCTs are also a contributing factor, but it does not necessarily mean that patients are no longer interested in receiving homeopathic treatment on the NHS” – Sato Liu, London