NHS Grampian has defended its use of homeopathic remedies for patients, despite Scottish health bosses saying there is “no evidence” that they work.
According to new figures obtained by The Press and Journal, the authority spent £87,706 prescribing alternative treatments including metallic powders, plant-based ointments and gels over 2017-18.
While the final figures for last year are still being tallied up, it has revealed it spent more than £73,000 between April and December.
If prescribing continued at the same rate for the remainder of the financial year, it is expected that the total bill for 2018-19 will sit close to £97,000.
Homeopathy is an alternative medicine based around highly-diluted substances which practitioners say help the body heal itself.
But their claims have routinely come under fire from bodies including the House of Commons and the country’s chief medical officer, who has described it as “scientifically implausible.”
The NHS Inform website says there is no “good-quality” evidence to prove that homeopathy is effective.
It states: “Some people who use homeopathy may see an improvement in their health condition due to a phenomenon known as the placebo effect.
“If you choose health treatments that provide only a placebo effect, you may miss out on other treatments that have been proven to be more effective.”
Between April 2014 and December 2018, NHS Grampian spent just under £350,000 on homeopathic treatments – a mere fraction of its £500m total medication spend in the same period.
But critics say it should be avoiding the substances altogether.
North East MSP Tom Mason said: “Many people may wonder why NHS Grampian is continuing to spend so much on homeopathic medicine when there is little scientific evidence to suggest it is effective.
“NHS England told GPs to stop dispensing these treatments altogether in 2017.
“Scotland is now the only part of the UK where this happens, and several other Scottish health boards don’t spend anything on these treatments.”
An NHS Grampian spokesman said it has a “clinical and ethical” responsibility to patients to consider all possible treatments.
He added: “We also have a responsibility to use NHS resources carefully and balance our priorities across the population as well as individuals and a legal responsibility to deliver services within our fixed financial budget.
“Homeopathy can be considered in this arena and we remain connected with the wider debate on its role within the NHS while regularly reviewing our local support for such services within NHS Grampian.”