Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘The Tipping Point’ describes what he terms “The Law of the Few”: namely that the influence of a few people can result in change in behaviour across a wider population.
This Hole Ousia post is about the education of psychiatrists and takes all its material from publically available sources. This post hopes to demonstrate the considerable reach (to the many) of a handful of educators.
This post follows on from the evidence that was gathered for my petition to the Scottish Parliament to consider introducing a Sunshine Act for Scotland. That petition closed 16 months ago following a consultation with the Scottish public who, in majority, asked that payments made to healthcare workers and academics be declared on a mandatory basis. I have argued the reasons why I am of the view that such mandatory declarations should be registered on a single, open, central, searchable, independent database.
Evidence has demonstrated that when a doctor has a financial “conflict of interest”, this can affect the treatment decisions they make, or recommend. There is longstanding evidence that exposure to industry promotional activity can lead to doctors recommending worse treatments for patients.
The post has come about following my invitations in the last month to Continuing Medical Education (CME) provided in my place of employment (NHS Scotland). I do not knowingly attend sponsored medical education and so declined these two talks. The first was by Dr Peter Haddad (sponsored by Lundbeck) and the next one, just two weeks later, was by Professor McAllister Williams (sponsored by Lundbeck).
I am an ordinary psychiatrist working in a provincial NHS general hospital and to find such prominent individuals visiting our wee corner of Scotland left me to reflect upon the wide influence of a few key individuals.
The British Association for Psychopharmacology (BAP) describes itself as “a learned society and registered charity. It promotes research and education in Psychopharmacology and related areas, and brings together people in academia, health services, and industry.”
Professor Hamish McAllister-Williams is an Ex-Officio Member of BAP and is currently the BAP Director of Education. Dr Peter Haddad, former Honorary General Secretary of BAP, has been involved over a number of years with BAP education providing articles and masterclasses.
Over the course of my career as a psychiatrist I have frequently heard colleagues say that BAP “is the place to go” for CME. It is now a requirement for General Medical Council Appraisal and Revalidation to demonstrate with our College that we have participated in CME. Once this has been demonstrated the Royal College of Psychiatrists will issue a Certificate of “Good medical standing”.
As BAP Director of Education, Professor McAllister Williams recently shared this offer to trainee psychiatrists. Following the dissemination of this I took the opportunity to look more closely at the current BAP calendar for Continuing Medical Education. This again demonstrates the wide influence of a small number of individuals, some of whom would appear (within the limits of the current voluntary disclosure regime) to have potential financial conflicts of interest.
In the remaining part of this post I have included a few examples
As BAP Director of Education, Professor McAllister Williams chaired this BAP 2015 Summer Meeting: “Expert Seminar in Psychopharmacology”. The key-note speaker was Professor Stephen Stahl who many consider as one of the most influential key opinion leaders in world psychiatry.
In the USA, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are required by law to release details of their payments to doctors and teaching hospitals for promotional talks, research and consulting. This was the return for Professor Stahl at the time of his contribution to BAP as an educator of UK psychiatrists:
In the UK disclosure of payments is on a voluntary basis.
Professor David Nutt, former BAP President, has declared financial interests on the voluntary ABPI Register. Over the ABPI “disclosure period”, Professor Nutt has declared just short of £46,000 that he has received from Janssen-Cilag Ltd and Lundbeck Ltd.
There are strong links between BAP and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The President Elect for BAP is Professor Allan Young. Professor Allan Young is Chair of the Psychopharmacology Committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Dr McAllister Williams, the BAP Director of Education is an appointed member of this Committee. Some years ago I wrote this post about the Royal College of Psychiatrists Psychopharmacology Committee.
Some years ago I put together this Hole Ousia post on Professor Allan Young and also this post. It is clear that Professor Allan Young remains a very active educator and opinion leader in the UK and beyond:
Professor Guy Goodwin was President of BAP between 2004 and 2005. In April 2014 he featured prominently on BBC Panorama:
On the 40th anniversary of BAP, Professor Peter J Cowen was given the Lifetime Achievement award:
The recently retired CEO of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Vanessa Cameron, who had been with the College for 36 years was interviewed for the Psychiatric Bulletin in December 2016. This was the view that she expressed:
Each time I reconsider this subject I do not find evidence to support this view. My worry is that the Royal College of Psychiatrists is being complacent in facilitating the education of the many by such a small group of individuals. The Law of the Few.
Footnote: If you click on each invite below you will access what is available in the public domain regarding the educational activities of the recent speakers. I apologise if this is in any way an incomplete record.