A former government scientific advisor has criticised the use of homoeopathic treatments in the NHS, claiming the practice has “no scientific basis”.

Professor Sir John Beddington, who retired from his post at the beginning of the month, said he was annoyed that taxpayers’ money was being wasted on homoeopathy despite it having no medical or scientific proof of its effectiveness.

Speaking in the Daily Telegraph, Sir John said his view on homoeopathy being used by GPs and in NHS hospitals was the only thing that was ignored during his time as chief scientific advisor to the government.

He said: “The only one I could think of was homoeopathy, which is mad. It has no underpinning of scientific basis.

“In fact all of the science points to the fact that it is not at all sensible.

“The clear evidence is saying this is wrong, but homoeopathy is still used on the NHS.”

Homoeopathy is based on the principle that an illness or disease can be treated by things that produce similar symptoms. People suffering from insomnia have been given small doses of caffeine under homoeopathic treatments, but it can also be used for things as serious as cancer.

This is despite widespread scepticism about its effectiveness, with many medical professionals believing that it works only through the placebo effect, as patients see their condition improve despite not being given a medical treatment.

Homoeopathy, which uses highly diluted extracts from plants, herbs and minerals to treat conditions is thought to cost the NHS between £4m and £12m a year.

The British Medical Association has in the past described homoeopathy as “witchcraft”, while it has also attracted criticism from Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, who said it was “rubbish”.

In 2010 the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee said that the government should stop providing the treatment on the NHS.