The alternative Holby City that treats 30,000 patients a year

With an annual NHS budget of about £5million, the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital is one of four run by the NHS. It treats 30,000 patients a year for a variety of conditions including eczema, arthritis, allergies and stress. Such is the demand that it has just opened a 'herbal clinic'.

But with budgets in crisis, critics claim spending on complementary medicine is frivolous - and last week it was revealed that GPs' homeopathic prescriptions have fallen by 40 per cent in two years.

Yet according to the journal Homeopathy, among those receiving these remedies, 60 per cent say their health improved after treatment. We spoke to a range of patients at the hospital who have turned to homeopathy.

Daphne Thornton, 66, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Problem: autoimmune disease.
Six years ago I began suffering stiffness in my neck, shoulders, back, groin and knees. I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease polymyalgia rheumatica and my GP prescribed prednisolone, a steroid.
I was reluctant to take it because of the side effects, such as weight gain, puffiness and muscle stiffness, but the results were remarkable. I was like a new person after one day.
But a few months later I did begin to put on weight and my face appeared swollen, so I wanted to try complementary methods to try to control the side effects.
I first came here in July 2005. Dr Saul Berkovitz, who leads the clinic, put me on homeopathic remedies at first - causticum, which is supposed to help stiffness, and cimicifuga, which alleviates aches. Neither helped. We then tried phosphorus - but that didn't work.
It was only when I was put on a cocktail of herbal medicines including Rehmannia, Bupleurum (both Chinese herbal preparations), black cohosh, celery seed and liquorice root that I began to notice any effect. After a month or two of taking it I began to feel less stiff.
We reduced the steroids by half a milligram at a time every few months until eventually I came off them completely. And I've been off them ever since.

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