It’s BOOM time in Industry

This is an unedited clip of a contribution made by Professor Michael Sharpe, Professor of Psychological Medicine at the University of Oxford. The Event marked the 50th Anniversary of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. [To access film please click on the image/graphic below]The full coverage of the afternoon session of the 18th March 2019 can be watched here (thanks to The Mental Elf):

At this afternoon session Professor Michael Sharpe said: “. . . we live in the greatest of times . . . Mental Health is the rage. This is BOOM time! We have a PRODUCT that is selling like hotcakes everywhere. How are we going to make enough PRODUCT?” [capitalization is mine, but as I heard it] This statement by Professor Michael Sharpe was followed by laughter from the audience.

I have watched several of the sessions of this 50th Anniversary. I was struck by the language of commerce and the academic egocentricity.

As an everyday NHS doctor this academic world is unfamiliar to me.

The University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry alongside equivalent Departments, such as King’s College London and University College London have maintained the narrative of mental health (or otherwise).

I find myself in agreement with Professor Michael Sharpe that it is indeed “BOOM time” for “products” like you and I.

Update, 26th March 2019: Professor Michael Sharpe has been in touch with me by e-mail and he provides this context:

From: Michael Sharpe
Sent: 25 March 2019
Subject: curious misrepresentation

Dear Dr Gordon,

Thank you for you (mischievous) interest.

The context: The panel session was about training psychiatrists in general and academic psychiatrists in particular. My comment was intended to be a provocative question to a the panel about how they were going to meet the increasing NHS demand for psychiatrists when the number of academic psychiatrists providing their training is falling. It is absolutely nothing to do with industry.

Interesting that you choose to misrepresent it. No doubt you have good reasons

Kind regards

My response [please note I do not know Professor Michael Sharpe]:

Dear Professor Sharpe,
My interest was not “mischievous”. My interest was as a long term advocate for full transparency of competing interests.

Thank you for providing the context to what you describe as a “provocative question”. The language you used in your provocative question/statement was that of industry/commerce: words like “product” and “boom time”.

I did not “choose to misrepresent” what you said, I shared an unedited clip with my honest reflections on what I heard as a viewer and in the context of listening to a number of the presentations including that of Professor John Geddes.

As to your statement “no doubt you have good reasons”, well I am not sure what you mean? However I am concerned about the lack of full public transparency in relation to the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry and its strategic partnerships with industry (The GMC Good Medical Practice guidelines are the context):

Perhaps you can send me the public link to the declarations of competing financial interests kept by the University of Oxford for all staff along with the public link to the Register of all financial details relating to the University’s strategic partnerships with industry.

Kind wishes

Dr Peter Gordon GMC 3468861

From: Michael Sharpe
Sent: 26 March 2019 07:42

Dear Dr Gordon,
Thank you

Three points

  1. I have no links with industry. None.
  2. I am not responsible for my colleagues or indeed for the University any more than you are for the NHS
  3. I am afraid I will not censor my language. It was a *joke*

Please remove your misleading webpage  – which may indeed have been an honest reflection – but which you now know is misleading.

Thank you

To: Michael Sharpe
Sent: 26 March 2019 08:07

Dear Professor Sharpe,
Thank you for this.

I have absolutely no intent to mislead.

In answer to your three points:

(1)          I have never said you had any links with Industry.

(2)          I agree that it is the scientific community and the medical establishment where the responsibility rests in terms of transparency of competing interests. You are in a genuine position of seniority within the University of Oxford to help here.

(3)          I have not asked you to “censor” your language. Jokes are fine. This joke was made at a recorded University of Oxford meeting about the Department you are a lead in. My interest was in the Department and its relationships with the commercial sector and not you.

Thank you for asking me to remove my website. I have chosen to add your updates and clarification rather than remove it.

Kind wishes
Dr Peter J Gordon

6 Replies to “It’s BOOM time in Industry”

  1. Reblogged this on GSK : Licence To (K) ill (Documenting GSK And Seroxat) and commented:
    Great new post from Dr Peter Gordon illustrating how UK psychiatry aligns itself with industry. This kind of Pharma-Whoring means that psychiatrists pimp themselves out to Pharma industry and drugs like Seroxat get on the market. They are over prescribed and over hyped to patients and side effects are denied for years. We can’t let a little things like human rights, ethics and morality get in the way of profits and career-ism – now can we? Shameful behavior from psychiatry as usual. An ideology beholden to Pharma- pay masters and one that uses patient’s as fodder for profits, ego and ideology….

  2. “……selling like hotcakes everywhere”.
    You have to ask yourself – why? I would suggest that the answer lies with Layard and Clark. Government has been promised that by addressing mental health problems loads of money will be saved from the physical healthcare budget, i.e. providing MH care is a no brainer because it will more than pay for itself. And it’s claimed that by integrating it with physical healthcare the better (and therefore more money-saving) its likely to be. Of course the idea of integrated care is a nice one, with MH sufferers no longer being marginalized and sent like lepers to asylums on the outskirts of our cities or to some grotty building on the other side of the hospital car park. And it makes sense that people in worse physical shape or with multiple co-morbidities are likely to have greater mental health challenges. But the idea that treating mental health problems can be a cash cow takes us to very dangerous territory indeed, especially when you consider that this model has been built on the psychosomatic/CBT model for the management of ME/CFS patients, who for decades have been denied both decent care and research funding to identify a biomedical cause and treatment. Will this appalling model now be extended to other patient groups? With the same people involved in both strategies, I would personally place bets on it.

    By fully integrating mental and physical healthcare the health providers have ready access to mental health information on all their patients which can then be used against them to deny them biomedical care. (This circumvents data protection and logistical issues of getting MH information from another Trust or data controller.) This is already happening across the country. Those with documented mental health problems are not believed about their physical symptoms. In A&E liaison psychiatrists are ready to swoop in to divert patients away from investigations and biomedical treatment. I would say that it’s ‘diagnostic overshadowing’ that is selling like hotcakes as a means of reducing health budgets. And in terms of research, it was noted on the video that psychiatry can bid in every one of the NIHR’s themes, grabbing funding from biomedical researchers left, right and centre.

    And….we need to talk about Stigma.
    Wouldn’t it be great to end MH stigma? Surely no compassionate person could disagree with that. But in the above model it is essential that stigma is ended, or patients will not take kindly to being asked questions and to fill in forms about their mental health every time they go to a physical health appointment. But by ending stigma, by making it socially unacceptable to regard MH problems as even slightly embarrassing, then nobody can object, because to object is to stigmatize those who do have MH problems and to behave antisocially to the people asking the questions. Job done, except perhaps its been done a little too well, because by engaging some unsuspecting royals and by pushing the message hard that we’re all potentially susceptible, so many are now tuned in to their mental health that the NHS is apparently struggling to cope with them all. (The ‘pyrrhic victory’ that one of the panellists described in the video?)

    Well that’s how I see it.

  3. Meanwhile, Professor Sharpe forges on with his HOME study to prove that you can get elderly people out of hospital significantly sooner if psychiatrists are involved in their hospital care from the word go. Boom time? Well boom time for the hospitals that will be demolished, and also for the developers of the hospital land that will be sold off on the basis that bed occupancy for elderly people will fall in the future.
    It’s implied in the video that Professor Sharpe is doing much better than the Oxford nephrologist panellist Professor Chris Pugh who still works in a 1968 portacabin. In the words of Professor Pugh – “Lucky you, to be in the spotlight”.

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