Penny Mordaunt, a leading contender to win the Conservative party leadership contest and become prime minister, has repeatedly advocated the use of homeopathy on the NHS, analysis of her parliamentary records and public comments shows.
Homeopathy is a treatment based on the use of highly diluted substances that practitioners claim can cause the body to heal itself. It has been called bogus by the most senior doctor in the NHS, and the health service does not fund it because of “the lack of any evidence for its effectiveness”. The NHS position is backed by a high court judgment.
“Homeopathy has no place in the NHS and is no replacement for rigorously tried and tested medical care,” Prof Stephen Powis, the NHS national medical director, has said previously. “We have been clear in our guidance to GPs that they should not be prescribing these bogus treatments, which are at best a placebo and a misuse of taxpayers’ money.”
A Guardian analysis reveals that Mordaunt, the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Boris Johnson, has repeatedly expressed support for homeopathy and called for family doctors to be given the right to prescribe it.
In June 2010 she was one of 16 supporters of an early day motion in the House of Commons sharply criticising the British Medical Association for voting to withdraw NHS support for homeopathy.
The motion claimed there was “overwhelming anecdotal evidence that homeopathy is effective, frequently in cases when patients have not found relief through conventional medical treatments”.
The statement signed by Mordaunt called on the government to allow health commissioners to refer patients to “homeopathic doctors and approved homeopaths”. Her support for the motion was first noted by Charlie Peters, a writer and broadcaster.
The Guardian has found that four years later Mordaunt again intervened on behalf of homeopathy. She declared in a tweet that GPs “should have freedom to decide” if they wished to prescribe homeopathic treatments to NHS patients.
In July 2014, Peter Stokes, a data director at the Office for National Statistics, wrote on Twitter that Mordaunt was a “supporter of homeopathy on NHS”, adding: “Hard to vote for people who don’t believe in evidence-based decisions.”
In response, Mordaunt wrote: “Hi, I support drinking cranberry juice for UTIs & campaigned for better access to osteopathy. Do pl email me for more info.”
Stokes wrote back: “Both reasonable, but you also signed [the 2010 early day motion]. “Homeopathy is the worst kind of bunkum medicine.”
Mordaunt replied: “I don’t think GPs referring 2 homeopathy 2 cure cancer. Do think they should have freedom to decide. Pl email for more info.”
Her renewed support for homeopathy came five months after Dame Sally Davies, then the government’s chief medical officer, had dismissed homeopathy as a waste of time and money. “There is no evidence that homeopathy extends life for cancer patients – or indeed for patients with any other condition,” Davies said in February 2014.
On Friday Mordaunt’s campaign team did not immediately respond to a request for comment when approached by the Guardian.
Michael Marshall, a project director at the pro-science charity Good Thinking Society, said: “Homeopathic remedies have no place in modern healthcare, given that they have been proven to be ineffective, and can be actively dangerous when patients are led to believe they might work.
“It is concerning to think that a leading contender for the highest office has such a poor appreciation of the importance of evidence when it comes to healthcare and science, and that she feels confident standing publicly against the conclusions of medical experts.”
Marshall added: “We sincerely hope Ms Mordaunt has withdrawn her support for this pseudoscientific therapy, and that her other views and policy positions show a far greater consideration for evidence and reason.”
Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, said: “It’s alarming that someone who could be appointed prime minister in a few weeks’ time has repeatedly supported homeopathy being provided by the NHS, despite concerns about the practice among health experts.
“Penny Mordaunt should make clear that she will focus on fixing the real issues facing the NHS like soaring ambulance waiting times, not on imposing homeopathic treatments.”
Mordaunt has also voted against smoking bans, and consistently voted against restricting the provision of services to private patients by the NHS, according to the website TheyWorkForYou, which monitors the voting records of MPs.
July 16, 2022 at 02:04AM Andrew Gregory Health editor