What’s Going on with the Advertising Standards Authority?

Don’t get me wrong, I have enormous respect for the ASA. Above all else, they are seriously annoying the quacks and charlatans, notably “What Doctors Don’t Tell You“, the magazine that makes up silly stories about health, disease, and treatments. But I am wondering whether the ASA is falling victim to the IT-driven tick-box mentality that pervades modern society and business. Continue reading

Charity begins……where?

I’m not sure where it begins, but I’m more than a little concerned at where it seems to be going. I’m sure you all know about the deeply embarrassing (for its patron) closure of the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, a charity which openly campaigned for alternative medical `treatments’ (charities are not supposed to campaign). At the time I wondered why the Charity Commission didn’t investigate it a long time before the debacle, as `significant financial loss’ is a cause for investigation. Continue reading

A Contagion of Lunacy

My mother always warned me about mixing with the wrong people. “They will lead you off the straight and narrow”, she would intone. That could not be more true in the case of our august drug regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). That body has access to a wide range of advisers, among which is the Advisory Board on the Registration of Homeopathic Products. The MHRA recently advertised for new members of this committee, via the Appointments Commission. My good friend and fellow HealthWatch committee member Professor Susan Bewley wrote to the Appointments Commission, to ask what possible use the committee was. Here is the reply she received. Each section is headed by her question in blue, with the reply, and my comments in red. Continue reading

Regulatory Rigmarole

I promised to update you if and when I heard anything concrete from the General Medical Council regarding its policy on evidence-based Practice. Miraculously, after I drew the GMC’s attention to my last post (which reported their deathly silence), the following hit my inbox:

Thank you for your inquiries about evidence based practice. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. As my colleagues have indicated, the GMC has not issued any advice about complementary and alternative medicine. Continue reading

The political plot thickens

Well I don’t think it’s really a plot, as that would suggest that our lords and masters know what they are doing, sufficient to cook up some sort of plot at all. My last post predicted that I would get the usual “this correspondence is ended” reply from the Dept of Health. After further repetition of the previous letter, here is what I got:

…there is nothing further for the Department to add on this matter.

In other words, “We are not going to answer your questions so you had better get used to not asking them any more”. Do you detect a note of exasperation? Well I have it on extremely good and very senior authority that ministers are getting rather fed up with what they describe as “hectoring and unhelpful” questions from scientists about evidence in health care. Sorry, I can’t reveal my source, but you know you can trust me. Well it’s good news that we are getting them to notice. I don’t think now is the time to worry about how much sleep Earl Howe and Anne Milton are losing, so the message is, don’t back off.

Thus I have broadened the approach slightly. Firstly, there is the Dept of Health’s response to the NHS Future Forum Report. I homed in on a key statement in the summary:

…we will support clinical commissioning groups to make high quality, evidence-based decisions, with information joining up to support integrated care.

What can this mean? If you search for the word `evidence’ in the whole document you get 19 hits, but what I am really looking for is a clear statement that in this brave new NHS, health care providers are expected to follow evidence based practice. It doesn’t say that anywhere. Read it yourself, if you can stand the repetition and boredom. So I asked the Dept of Health. More than two weeks later I got the reply: Continue reading

Are politicians really stupid?

Or do they think we are? Some of you might remember the stories in The Guardian about the parties’ policies on science, including evidence based medicine (EBM). Before I go on, I just want to thank my MP John Glen for his patience with me, a grumpy old constituent who has imposed disproportionately on his time. This is because of the parliamentary rule that all contacts between government ministers and the public have to go via the relevant MPs. I have observed in the past that MPs have done little more than act as postmen, but John has done a bit more than that, and engaged in useful discussion. I was quite hard on him in a previous post, but credit where it is due.

Anyway, I wrote via John to Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, drawing his attention to the pre-election commitments of both coalition partners to evidence based medicine. I then asked how this corresponded with the government’s response to the Science and Technology Committee’s report on homeopathy. Here in full is the reply: Continue reading

Peer review – an update

I am very happy to respond more fully to Liz Wager’s comment here. It seems that my message to COPE disappeared into the ether somehow. I completed the contact form on the website, got confirmation that it had been received, and then nothing. Technical problem? Not sure, but I can certainly trust Liz when she says she never saw it. Continue reading

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