The Department is investing around £3 million to build capacity for research into complementary and alternative medicine, to strengthen the evidence base. As the hon. Gentleman will know, it is for health care organisations to make informed decisions on the funding and commissioning of services for their local communities, based on evidence, safety, effectiveness and the availability of treatments from suitability qualified practitioners.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that, despite the support that she has described, one fifth of PCTs have cut services in integrated health care in the past two years? One problem in particular is the possibility of Camden PCT withdrawing support for the Royal London homeopathic hospital, despite its employing integrated services which have cut the costs of treatments for some conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, by between 50 and 100 per cent. Will she look carefully at the problems there and perhaps issue some guidelines?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that primary care trusts have the responsibility to commission the very best care that they can for their local populations. In considering the role of complementary and alternative therapies, PCTs need to take account of the evidence on clinical and cost-effectiveness. I am aware that a number of PCTs are reflecting on precisely those points, which is influencing the contracts that they place. However, for a member of a party that supports local decision making, it ill behoves the hon. Gentleman to question it when things do not quite go his way.
In this country we use a lot of recycled water, but I am surprised that water, which supposedly has a memory, does not have a memory of the faeces that were in it and thereby make us all sick. My right hon. Friend has referred to research, but against that background is she aware of any peer-reviewed medical research that indicates that homeopathic medicine works through anything other than a placebo effect?
I am aware that some—including, it appears, my hon. Friend—are not impressed with homeopathic medicine. However, when I referred to complementary and alternative medicines, I was referring to a much broader base of practices. The whole point of the research is to build up the capacity to make evidence-based decisions about complementary therapies.
The Minister says that the decision is for commissioning authorities. However, if the Government believe in evidence-based commissioning as they say they do, is there not a role for them in issuing guidance or at least in asking the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to issue guidance, so that PCTs do not spend resources on treatments that have no effectiveness? If the effectiveness of treatments such as homeopathy is zero, there can be no cost-effectiveness to them.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the recent Select Committee on Health report on NICE made recommendations about the shortfall in good quality research evidence on the cost-effectiveness of different types of public health interventions, including complementary therapies. The Government will respond to that report in due course. The issue for the Department is to ensure that PCTs are aware of the evidence where it is available. We would certainly wish to consider where it is appropriate for NICE to consider complementary therapies alongside other treatments.