PRINCE Charles has called for a professional and public debate over the status of complementary and alternative medicine, which he argues should be integrated with orthodox treatments.
His comments backed a new report from health think-tank, the King's Fund, highlighting the need for more research and training in complementary treatments.
But while much needs to be done, the London College of Classical Homeopathy has already taken a lead in linking the alternative and the mainstream by collaborating with Westminster University to launch the first BSc in homeopathy in Europe. The college is also now involved in talks with Napier University in Edinburgh and the University of Central Lancashire.
Mary Hood, LCCH's principal, says a degree boosts the profession's credibility. "I'm not saying it makes someone a better homeopath, but you know that for them to have attained the qualification, they have had to study anatomy, physiology, nutrition and biochemistry."
Although LCCH teaches the principles and practice of homeopathy on Westminster's honours BSc, and awards the licence to practise, the university's centre for community care and primary health covers health sciences, practitioner development (which aims to hone communication skills, focusing on how the student relates to people)and research methodology.
The full-time degree, now in its second year, has an intake of between 30 and 40 students, who will each carry out a research project in their final year. "There is a desperate need for good-quality research in homeopathy," says Brian Isbell, Westminster's director of health sciences.
There is already literature showing that homeopathy has more than a placebo effect, he says. "But we've got to find out more about how efficient and effective it is."