Clinical Trials – better outside the European Union?

Angus Dalgleish, Professor of Oncology at St George’s, University of London, claims in the Daily Telegraph that “Brexit means we can revive clinical trials killed by the EU”. Departing slightly from my usual theme of pseudoscience, I would like to point out where Professor Dalgleish might be mistaken. Continue reading

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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

At last – action from Trading Standards

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPR) were warmly welcomed by sceptics in the health care field, as it reversed the burden of proof hitherto enshrined in the old Trades Descriptions Act. However so far I and others have been less than impressed by the vigour with which it is being enforced. Continue reading

How rational will your next MP be?

It really is of little consequence which party forms the next government. Of immensely greater importance are the thinking skills of the members of parliament. Continue reading

The Three Amigos

OK, I’m a bit slow in commenting on the second oral evidence session of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. At least the delay has allowed me to get my thoughts in order – and to calm down. I have seldom seen three people looking less comfortable. They all knew they were on the rack, and I might have expected them to be a bit better prepared. They had the air of someone going to the dentist – something unpleasant, not overwhelmingly important, and to be got out of the way as quickly as possible. Well I hope they will realise that there is a bigger picture than they one they thought they were painting. Again I won’t cover the entire sorry episode, just the bits where I hope I can add some context. Continue reading

Evidence: It’s whatever you want it to be

I have just sat through the an oral session for the evidence check on homeopathy, called by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Well I wasn’t there in person, I watched it on the excellent video page. You can still see it if you are quick. Before I go on, aren’t we all glad they have reverted to a sensible name for this committee? Anyway, it was almost two hours very well spent. The transcript will be what endures for the public record, but that doesn’t capture all the body language and hesitation that attended so many of the answers to questions. I just want to pick out some bits that I think are worth our attention – in no particular order. Continue reading

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