Or why I won’t be rejoining the Green Party any time soon
Whilst I was a member of the Green Party, one of the problems I had with the party was it’s health policy support for what could be best described (charitably) as ‘alternative’ treatments. However, all parties have their eccentrics and eccentric policies, and I believed that with the wealth of rational policies on the environment and economics it was worth the compromise as policies can be changed with engagement and debate.
In the run up to the election I was given hope that the Green Party’s position on alternative medicine was going to shift to a rational evidence based approach when Green Party leader Caroline Lucas responded to the Skeptical Voter campaign that:
“We believe all treatments should be independently assessed for effectiveness and safety before being made available for use on the NHS.
…decisions have to be made on the best science currently available
As homeopathy has no plausible evidence to back it as an effective treatment, this seemed like an indication that the Green Party wouldn’t support homeopathy on the NHS.
Watering down past history
But Caroline Lucas tweeted earlier today, simply posting a link to an Early Day Motion website, specifically referencing EDM 284. EDM 284 was raised by fan of homeopathic treatments David Tredinnick MP, a serial EDM-er in support of homeopathy. Lucas had signed Tredinnick’s EDM, joining 24 other signatories including political giant Keith Vaz. This signals a change in direction from her claims to the Skeptical Voter.
After her first simple tweet, Lucas’ next Twitter post seemed to be an attempt to justify her support for the EDM:
EDM is about lack of BMA’s consultation & argues that local NHS better placed to know patient needs, based on objective clinical assessment
Which is sadly a twitter-sized rehashing of the EDM, rather than a reasoned argument. And it’s wrong. Underneath the BMA bluster the EDM is simply naked support of a practice which has no proven therapeutic value above that of a placebo.
Going through the motions
EDM 284 was raised in response to motions raised to be discussed at the British Medical Association’s Annual Representative Meeting:
That this Meeting believes that, in the absence of valid scientific evidence of benefit:
(i) there should be no further commissioning of, nor funding for, homeopathic remedies or homeopathic hospitals in the NHS;
(ii) no UK training post should include a placement in homeopathy;
(iii) pharmacists and chemists should remove homeopathic remedies from shelves indicating they are ‘medicines’ of any description, and place them on shelves clearly labelled ‘placebos’.
It seems straightforward enough, and pretty unremarkable. The NHS shouldn’t pay for homeopathy, and homeopathic remedies should be clearly sold as non-efficacious remedies. The motions were there to protect patients and save the taxpayer from paying for treatments that don’t work any better than placebos, and could actually result in harm.
Tredinnick’s EDM 284 was a clear step into the BMA’s business, as the BMA has the right as an independent body to express its views on treatments. EDM 284 whinges:
That this House expresses concern at motions 301, 301a, 301b, 301c, 301d, 301e and 301f at this year’s British Medical Association’s (BMA) Annual Representative Meeting, which calls for no further commissioning of, nor funding for, homeopathic remedies in the NHS; believes that the BMA has overstepped its remit by making such statements without proper consultation with its own membership that practice homeopathy and, more importantly, with the tens of thousands of patients who depend on homeopathy; thinks that an integrated NHS, which employs the best from the orthodox and complementary, and which empowers patients, could deliver better and more cost-effective outcomes at a time of financial prudence; and calls on the Government to maintain its policy of allowing decision-making on individual clinical interventions, including homeopathy, to remain in the hands of local NHS service providers and practitioners who are best placed to know their community’s needs.
What’s pathetic is that Tredinnick raised an EDM for motions that hadn’t yet been discussed. Despite Tredinnick’s attempt the poison the well, the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting passed the motions with little changed. In response, Tredinnick fired off another Early Day Motion, EDM 342.
A Modern Green Party
In reality nobody takes much notice of EDMs. They have little influence on Parliamentary activity, often being puff pieces for the EDM proposer’s own vanity or to show the proposing MP’s supporters where he or she stands on specific issues. Very rarely do EDMs make it to law. But the value or otherwise is not what my main point is about. In this particular case, it reveals a change in approach by Caroline Lucas to homeopathy, and one which could be very damaging to the Green Party. From the perspective of her as leader of the Green Party, it will give the appearance that she is setting Party policy on the fly.
Caroline Lucas has not yet signed EDM 342, and I’m hoping she doesn’t, and I’m hoping she withdraws her name from EDM 284. As the only Green Party MP and the party’s leader, she has raised the party’s media exposure, and her act risks confirming for many potential voters the hair shirt, new age, weirdo image that many Green Party members have been fighting hard to destroy. It’s hard to promote the party as modern and rational while the party leader gives succor to little more than wishful thinking and witchcraft.
Our NHS can’t afford homeopathy even when times are good. We really can’t afford it when cuts are are closing Accident & Emergency departments and losing beds. Shouldn’t the taxpayer only be paying for treatments that are proven to work?