“Believe me, that is not the way to get things done”

This post is about medical education in NHS healthcare: this is called “Continuing Professional Development” (“CPD”).

In this post I will explore the current relationship between medical education with commerce.

The title of this post is taken from a quote by the current Director of Medical Education for NHS Forth Valley in a communication to me on this matter. The Director of Medical Education was scolding me for asking about transparency.

As I get older I find that I see more patterns.

How we “see” such patterns will differ for us all!  My previous post was about a pattern that I had noticed regarding ageing and memory: The parabolic pattern

The pattern in this post is not one of light. It is a dark pattern. A pattern not easily seen.

Before trying to shed some light on this pattern, I want you to know that I am a scientist (as well as an artist) who supports innovation, scientific realism and progression. This is why the Scottish physicist, and poet, James Clerk Maxwell has long been my guide.

The pattern of images that follow (where I will try to keep my words spare) represent my very real concern that science today (and not just “in the past”) has rather too readily become the pocket of industry.

It was Alexander McCall Smith who wrote to me recommending this book:

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This week I faced a repeating pattern with this “educational” circular from my new NHS employers:

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Professor David Taylor is an Academic Pharmacist and so not registered with the General Medical Council. Prof Taylor has had significant input into the development of UK-wide guidelines on prescribing in mental health. He has been open about his significant financial conflicts of interest

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Professor David Taylor, paid by the Pharmaceutical Company Janssen, had earlier this year, given an “educational” talk to CPD teaching with my former employers:

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I refused to go to this. Why? Well through much of the previous 6 months, my NHS e-mail in-box had received e-mails (not at my request) from the makers of Asenapine. Several “key opinion leaders” featured in these promotions, including Professor Alan Young (whom more of later) and Prof David Taylor. The following slide comes from this online powerpoint:002

The next in this slide demonstrates good practice as in it Professor David Taylor outlines his comprehensive, and well-spread, financial conflicts of interest:

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Even though not a doctor, after I wrote to him, Prof David Taylor submitted his declarations to whopaysthisdoctor.com . We should commend this openness, as here Professor Taylor is a leading example of necessary transparency. It is important however that we consider that in “offering” “education”  Professor Taylor has significant financial under-writing. Professor Taylor has had a significant role in the development of UK-wide guidelines on prescribing in mental health.

Three years back: On the 17th May 2011 I wrote to NHS Forth Valley to say that I found that the link to the “Hospitality Register” was non-functioning. It took two years of polite inquiry for NHS Forth Valley to finally confirm that as an NHS Board it had NO register of interests for ALL staff. I was later to discover (through Freedom of Information requests) that this was a pattern spread across ALL twenty-two of NHS Boards in Scotland:

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Eleven years back: in circular HDL(2003) 62 The Scottish Government stated that “Chief Executives are asked to establish a register of interest for ALL NHS employees and primary care contractors”: 

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This year: The Director of Medical Education for NHS Forth Valley, said (25 February 2014) “Traditionally we have not registered the various meetings on the list as it was not required of us”. 

I will post some recent examples of sponsored education involving NHS Forth Valley employees. I do so without wishing to focus on any individual. It is important that what I present is understood only as part of a wider pattern.

It may be my error, but I cannot find any declarations made, by those involved in these sponsored educational meetings in any NHS Forth Valley Register. I wrote to the CHP General Manager of NHS Forth Valley on the 20th March 2014, where I included ALL the following examples of employees involved in what would appear to be sponsored meetings.

[the coloured highlights in the following promotions are mine (they are only part of my much wider effort to bring transparency). My endeavour is not to single any individual out.]

[I recognise that the sample I present (based on my much wider pinterest page) is simply the promotions for “education” which have come my way.]

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Patterns appear at all levels and not just “local”. For the governance of conflicts of interest, at a UK level, we follow the General Medical Council.  At annual appraisal and at five-yearly revalidation all doctors are asked to sign a probity section where each individual doctor confirms (or not) the following (this screenshot is from my recent Revalidation):

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Before closing: the following example of an “educational” “CPD” event reveals a pattern that does not just involve those employed by the NHS such as charities and third-sector organisations:

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The pattern is broad. I have no doubt. I recently debated with Professor Clive Ballard at a Royal College of Psychiatry Conference in Durham. I suggested to the organisers, well in advance of the conference, that all those involved might consider that they declared any financial interests in the programme. The organisers agreed that this was a good suggestion. As it turned out I was the only one to declare.

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Professor Clive Ballard chose not to reveal in the RCPsych programme, or in his presentation, any potential financial conflicts of interest.

Another speaker at this RCPsych Conference was Professor Allan Young. Like Professor David Taylor he had given hearty support to the promotion of Asenapine (my NHS email in-box was frequent witness to all of the promotions).

At the RCPsych conference, where I was a fellow speaker, Professor Allan Young started out by mocking any need for transparency: “for those of you who watch panorama, I do not give my consent for you to film this”. Professor Allan Young then presented his “Conflict of Interest Statement”. He did not talk his interests through (unlike the rest of his presentation) and my image is thus blurry. Professor Allan Young presented his multiple financial interests in a blink of an eye but also fortunately in a camera click.

In my camera click, I resisted Professor Allan Young’s wishes. Light is important to all patterns.

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Following my advocacy, NHS Forth Valley, would seem to be the only NHS Board, out of Scotland’s twenty-two NHS Boards to have an open access register for all employees.

From the evidence I have gathered it seems clear to me that Scottish Health Boards continue to fall very far short of complying with HDL 62. Yet this guidance delivered to ALL NHS Board Chief Executives is now 11 years old!

I am not legally minded. Senior Health Board Managers in Scotland are signing off annual Appraisals and five yearly Revalidation that staff are individually following their employers Guidance (including Scottish Government HDL 62 guidance: guidance issued to all Chief Executives in 2003) . The GMC are clear on what is expected regarding “probity”

It is for this reason that I submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament suggesting that they might consider a Sunshine Act. Other countries have instituted such legislation. Like John Betjeman, I do not welcome bureaucracy, however a central, open access register, enshrined-in-law, should be neither difficult nor burdensome to implement.

2 thoughts on ““Believe me, that is not the way to get things done”

  1. Pingback: “Conservative prescribing” | Hole Ousia

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