Mersey mission - a new homeopathy clinic for Liverpool

Liverpool has a long history of homeopathy and a strong tradition of making treatment available to those who need it most. The Liverpool Homeopathic Dispensary was established as a free medical charity in 1841 and continued in various locations across the city for the next 100 years. In 1887, the sugar merchant and philanthropist, Henry Tate, founded the Hahnemann Hospital which served the people of Liverpool until 1976.

The Hahnemann building, on Hope Street, has been converted to student accommodation, but it seems fitting that the city’s newest homeopathy clinic is just around the corner on the elegant Rodney Street. Liverpool Homeopathy is run in partnership with the North West Friends of Homeopathy and offers affordable appointments with a choice of four practitioners.

Bringing back homeopathy

Dr Hugh Nielsen has been a key part of Merseyside’s homeopathy community for 30 years. As well as integrating homeopathy into his GP practice, Hugh was clinical director at the NHS Liverpool Department of Homeopathic Medicine and later set up the Liverpool Medical Homeopathy Service. As President of the North West Friends of Homeopathy, he was instrumental in setting up the clinic.

“It couldn’t come at a better time,” he explains. “Homeopathy has had a difficult few years in this city. I was clinical director at the NHS Liverpool Medical Homeopathy Service which lost its funding in 2016. When that clinic closed, very many people lost access to much needed medicine because they couldn’t afford to go private.

“I’m happy to say that some of my patients have followed me to Liverpool Homeopathy and we also have people trying the treatment for the first time. Plus, I’m fully booked, so there’s clearly a very real need for what we’re doing.”

Each of the clinic’s homeopaths brings a wealth of experience and a deeply personal approach to their work. “I discovered homeopathy when my wife was pregnant with our daughter,” says Hugh. “She suffered very bad morning sickness and we were eager to try anything to help it. Eventually, I gave her the homeopathic remedy Nux vomica which worked like a charm. Her symptoms disappeared within half an hour but came back if she stopped taking it.

“Around the same time, I was working as a junior doctor in rheumatology at a hospital on the Wirral. A number of my patients had stopped taking their medicines because they’d found them too harsh and toxic. Instead, they’d tried homeopathy and it worked for them. I started becoming more and more interested and eventually decided that homeopathy was something that I’d like to pursue. The best way to do that was to retrain as a GP, which I did, while also taking courses at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. I’ve been using homeopathy alongside conventional treatment ever since.”

A passion for healing

Hugh’s Liverpool Homeopathy colleague, Robin Grenfell-Cowan, is an Oxford University law graduate who worked in shipping and theatre before becoming a homeopath. “When I was born my mother was a Liverpool GP. She went on to run a well woman clinic before becoming a Clinical Assistant in Psychological Medicine,” Robin says. “I was very influenced by my mum’s work. So, it was probably inevitable that I’d end up in one of the healing professions, although I never expected it to be homeopathy!”

So, what drew him to homeopathy? “Ironically, it was grappling with my own mental health that ultimately brought me to homeopathy,” Robin explains. “In 1996 I had been struggling with depression and was recommended a homeopath by a psychotherapist I knew. Extremely sceptically, I took my first remedy and it worked. I then had a really vivid dream where I heard a voice urging me to become a homeopath and it didn’t seem to be one that could be ignored!”

That same year, Robin began training as a homeopath at the North West College of Homeopathy (NWCH) and has been practising in the region since graduating in 2001. “Studying homeopathy felt like coming home,” adds Robin, “and it’s been at the centre of my life ever since.”

Asked to describe precisely what it is that captured his imagination, Robin reveals a poetic side: “I liked the idea of homeopathy being like a gentle compass for health with remedies guiding you back to your own individual best course when, buffeted by the storms of disease, you have strayed slightly off track. When our energies go out of kilter, we need a friendly wind to fill our sails.”

Prior to joining Liverpool Homeopathy, Robin ran his own low-cost clinic in Birkenhead and returned to the NWCH as the college’s Vice Chair. The experience of seeing patients has lost none of its fascination, as he explains: “It’s still an absolute privilege to hear their stories with a generous curiosity. Since Liverpool Homeopathy opened in April, we’ve had lots of different types of people coming through. I see a real cross-section of Liverpudlians from all sorts of backgrounds.

“A number of my patients are women with hormonal issues and other patients with stress, depression and anxiety. As you might imagine, mental health remains a passion for me and I’m also a trained counsellor which is a great help.”

Overcoming grief and shock

For the third member of the team, Emma McEvoy, the pull toward homeopathy came in waking hours but was no less dramatic. “It was the mid-1990s and I was attending a lecture about homeopathy,” she says. “The speaker explained the meaning of the word and it immediately caught my interest. I am highly allergic to antibiotics, and sensitive to any allopathic medicine which makes me sick. When I took a homeopathic remedy for the first time I was in shock and grieving. Yet I felt it work immediately.

“After that I continued homeopathic treatment and made the decision to study myself. I was fortunate that my homeopath at that time set up a college as part of the Hahnemann College and that’s where I received my Diploma in Homeopathic Medicine.” Emma initially trained in Classical Homeopathy, but has subsequently studied the more esoteric field of Shamanic Homeopathy.

“I continued my learning doing another four-year Diploma in Shamanic Homeopathy with Dr Yibraj Sharma,” she explains. “Part of the course involved doing provings which gave a greater understanding of some of the remedies used in homeopathy. Trying new remedies shows the ways homeopathy is evolving and there are no limits to how much can be learned about it. I continue to study with Yubraj and I’ve also begun studying Medical Astrology. Every part of the studies just made sense to me and I kept following the path.”

For Emma, there is no typical patient or treatment and she clearly relishes the variety of her practise. “The beauty of homeopathy is that it works for emotions and states of mind as well as physical problems. This means it can potentially help anyone and I’ve treated a huge range of conditions. I also have a keen interest in fertility and menopause and I’ve worked at a breast cancer charity since 2004.”

Pushed to share what kind of consultations she finds most rewarding, she adds: “It’s always good to treat people who are grieving since that was the issue that brought me to homeopathy. Oh, and children are a pleasure to treat as they tend to recover very quickly!”

Inspired by recovery

Locum homeopath Ken Ward-Atherton completes the Liverpool Homeopathy team. Ken has had a long and distinguished career in both mainstream and complementary medicine. Alongside senior positions at several Liverpool NHS hospitals, he has held consultant posts for integrated medicine at three private hospitals, as well as practising acupuncture, psychotherapy and homeopathy.

“My own journey into homeopathy began with a serious diagnosis as a young man,” he explains. “I had difficulty in walking and associated visual problems and eventually discovered I had Multiple Sclerosis. Mainstream medicine couldn’t offer a resolution for my illness and I sought homeopathic treatment in Germany. Following five years of treatment, I made a full recovery. It was this experience that inspired me to become a practitioner.”

Ken initially trained with the Faculty of Homeopathy attaining the Licentiate qualification. “I then undertook a five-year course in Germany for homeopathic physicians,” he says. “This involved both classical and complex prescribing. Since then I have studied with homeopathic experts around the world, including George Vithoulkas, Jonathan Shore and many more leaders in the field. That was over 30 years ago! The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. Here I am, practising the very same therapy that helped me recover all those years ago.”