A joint consultation has been launched by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCGs, which proposes the decommissioning of homeopathic services at the Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine in Bristol. Whilst consultations targeting homeopathy are nothing new the manner in which this particular consultation has been handled is nothing short of astonishing.
The consultation was seemingly launched on 18 July, and is scheduled to run until 15 August. It is inexplicable that there should be such a short window for responses in peak holiday time when there are major service changes proposed, not just concerning homeopathy. The official document can be found here.
It has emerged key stakeholders have not been alerted to the consultation; the providers of the NHS service within University Hospitals Bristol and staff of the Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine itself were not informed, nor were the patients who might be affected. The consultation is not being conducted in a fair and principled way so the Faculty is doing everything it can to challenge its validity.
The Faculty is assessing the consultation process for compliance with the CCGs’ own public consultation guidelines, with the involvement of legal counsel. To that end two requests under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act have been submitted to the CCG querying its processes and communications. All affected Faculty members in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire areas have been written to and alerted to the consultation as soon as it became apparent on Wednesday 8th August, plus a patient-facing text has been produced which members might choose to make available in their surgeries. In parallel the British Homeopathic Association have written to the Chief Officer of the combined CCGs and a meeting is sought with the Head of Individual Funding. Patients are being mobilised through social media, press and local radio coverage.
Whilst the Faculty supports the principle that public money should be used as efficiently as possible, the consultation seeks to drive a horse and cart through the principles of clinician freedom, patient choice and best value from the public purse. Responses can be made to the questionnaire which is to be found at https://www.bristolccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/nhs-service-proposals/decommissioning-homeopathy/ until Tuesday 15th August.
The Faculty will be make an official response to the consultation despite challenging the legitimacy of the whole exercise and recommends members and supporters do the same.