This is a film about leucotomies undertaken for mental illness in the United Kingdom.
This film is not about psychosurgery after 1970.
This is a film about leucotomies undertaken for mental illness in the United Kingdom.
This film is not about psychosurgery after 1970.
This is a film about Edmonstone house and its designed landscape. It neighbours the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary, Little France.
My understanding is that planning has been approved for 173 homes.
The film ends with the voice of Tom Devine.
Music credit: “the Fresh Monday” by Dexter Britain
Dr Robert Hutchison died in 1960, seven years before I was born. However, his appearance as depicted in the portrait (above) reminds me of Roald Dahl. One of his closest friends and colleagues described him in this way:
Dr Robert Hutchison, like Roald Dahl, is recalled for his wonderful way with language. One of my favourite quotes – about the profession in which we have shared across centuries – is by Hutchison. I still find it extraordinary that he wrote this in 1897:
Robert Hutchison was born at Carlowrie Castle, Kirkliston, in 1871.
In the early 1990s I lived with Sian in Kirkliston, at Humbie farm cottages. I was then studying Landscape Architecture at the University of Aberdeen and Sian was completing her GP training in Livingston:
In 1893 Robert Hutchison graduated in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Edinburgh. Like me, he was a very young medical student, but unlike me he was far more promising.
Robert Hutchison delivered his first baby in 1894 at the Simpson Memorial Hospital Edinburgh. I was born in this same hospital 70 years later.
1897, aged just 26 years of age Robert Hutchison co-authored: Clinical Methods: A Guide to the Practical Study of Medicine:
This is still used and is now in its 23rd Edition!
Robert’s sister Isobel Wylie Hutchison was quite amazing. She was a poet, polyglot, painter, botanist and Arctic traveller. She could speak Italian, Gaelic, Greek, Hebrew, Danish, Icelandic, Greenlandic and some Inuit. Carlowrie remained a home for her to return to from travels, although the upkeep was hard and the castle did not have electricity until 1951. Isobel died at Carlowrie in 1982, aged 92.
Dr Gohar titled his response: Primum non nocere (first, do no harm). He summarised the potential harms from early detection which he said may include: overdiagnosis and overtreatment, false positive findings, additional invasive procedures, negative psychosocial consequences, and harmful effects on bodily function.
Dr Gohar confirmed his view [that]: “This does not mean that such early detection should be ignored but it means, as this article stresses, that early detection should be balanced. Critical assessment of early detection including early detection technologies and strategies in clinical practice is indispensable to avoid the persisting bias that early detection is only beneficial.”
This returned my thoughts to communications that I have had with Healthcare Improvement Scotland an NHS Board that is primarily guided by the American organisation: the Institute of Healthcare Improvement.
I have in Hole Ousia expressed my concerns about the approach taken to detection by Healthcare Improvement Scotland. My concerns have related to the lack of consideration of harms of “National Improvement” drives and the continued marginalisation of consent.
Robert Hutchison may have died seven years before I was born. But in 1897 he wrote words that I consider to be most prescient:
"From inability to let well alone; from too much zeal for the new and contempt for what is old; from putting knowledge before wisdom, science before art, and cleverness before common sense; from treating patients as cases; and from making the cure of the disease more grievous than the endurance of the same, Good Lord, deliver us."
The first in a series of films celebrating the work of Geoffrey Jellicoe.
Music Credit: “Alice”
A recent Independent Review for NHS Scotland stated that: “Informed consent is a fundamental principle underlying all healthcare”
The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison stated to the Scottish Parliament (17 March 2017): “Informed consent and shared decision making are expected prior to any procedure being carried out.”
On the 20th April 2017, I wrote to Healthcare Improvement Scotland about Patient consent in NHS Scotland:
I have just completed my annual Appraisal which is a General Medical Council requirement as part of 5 yearly Revalidation. As part of this I was informed by my Appraiser that I must comply with all the LearnPro modules which I have now done.
The following screenshot comes from the NHS Lothian mandatory LearnPro module on Capacity and Consent:
I apologise as the text is small, so I have reproduced verbatim what it states to me as an NHS Lothian employee:
“Consent is both a legal requirement and an ethical principle and requires to be obtained by healthcare professionals, prior to the start of any examination, treatment, therapy or episode of care.”
“In Scotland, everyone over the age of 16 is an adult. The law assumes that adults can make their own decisions and can sign legal documents, such as consent to medical treatment (in some circumstances this also can apply to children under the age of 16) provided they have the capacity. This means that they are able to understand what is involved in the proposed treatment, retain the information, be able to weigh up the information needed to make the decision and then communicate that decision. Treatment might be delivered in a hospital, clinic or in someone’s home.”
In years past I have written about consent for older adults in hospital in NHS Scotland:
I am writing to Healthcare Improvement Scotland as I find myself confused.
Do I follow the mandatory requirements of my employers on consent? Or do I follow the National Improvement requirements of OPAC-HIS where consent is not required for assessments such as the 4AT assessment test? (formerly called “4AT screening tool”)
I know, from the re-drafted Care Standards, that Healthcare Improvement Scotland take consent very seriously.
I should state that I am writing in my own capacity and in my own time.
12 May 2017 - I sent this update to Healthcare Improvement Scotland:
Forgive me for this further correspondence but I felt that I should update you on the learning that I received as part of my attendance for Continuing Medical Education (CME) yesterday.
This CME event was for the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland – Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry and was held in Falkirk.
At this event the Chair of Old Age Psychiatry for the Royal College of Psychiatry was giving a talk and when the time came for questions I asked about the wide use of haloperidol in older adults in hospitals in NHS Scotland. Dr Thompsell replied “evidence has found that Haloperidol actually worsens the outcome of delirium”.
Another lecturer at this meeting, who was giving a talk on her area of expertise: anti-psychotics and older adults, was Dr Suzanne Reeve. She replied: “Haloperidol does increase mortality in older people compared with other antipsychotics. That message has been out for a while but has not really got across.”
The next talk was entitled “Successes of Old Age Psychiatry Liaison team” and one of the slides shown had the headline “Compliance with 4AT”. The impressive “compliance” figures then followed. The dictionary definition of compliance is “the act of yielding”.
My concern here is for patient harm and indeed increased patient mortality. National Improvement work undertaken by HIS has been instrumental in increasing “compliance” with tools such as the 4AT and it is clear that no consent is deemed necessary. I have argued that this is not ethical as these tools are often the beginning of “pathways” and “protocols” that may result in the administration of haloperidol.
I am genuinely worried that National Improvement work undertaken by Healthcare Improvement Scotland has not properly considered ethics, available evidence and the potential for unforeseen consequences. You will understand that I am also nervous about writing this letter given the consequences for me when I first “spoke up” three years ago:
I would very much value your advice. I am not sure that I can work in a profession if it loses sight of Hippocrates and “first do no harm”.
This is the response from Healthcare Improvement Scotland, dated 17th May 2017:
“Thank you for your letter of the 20th April and your letter of 12th May, in which you raise the interesting issue of taking consent in relation to cognitive screening.
I understand from staff involved in the inspections of older people’s care in hospital that taking of written consent prior to initial assessment for frailty is not routinely undertaken. Assessment at the point of admission, or where a change in a patient’s cognitive presentation is giving cause for concern, can alert staff to possible increased risk and enables planning of care for the patient. In these circumstances staff adopt a proportionate approach such as asking, for example, if they may ask some questions.
For absolute clarity though, as an employee of NHS Lothian, the requirements set out in the Board’s policies and mandatory training are those that you should follow.”
Submission on PE1517 on Polypropylene Mesh Medical Devices Made by Dr Peter J Gordon Date of submission: 17th May 2017 Submission made in a personal capacity.
The Agenda for the Public Petitions Committee meeting of the 18th May 2017 includes a most helpful summary “Note by the Clerk” on PE1517: Polypropylene Mesh Medical Devices (Document PPC/S5/17/10/1). Having read this carefully, and in accordance with the first suggested “Action” (point 45, page 8), I would like to offer evidence. Before doing so I have listed below the most relevant sections of PPC/S5/17/10/1 in relation to the points of evidence that I wish to make.
In Annexe B of PPC/S5/17/10/1 the Interim and Final Conclusions of the Independent Review are listed side-by-side.
Conclusion 1, both Interim and Final, was that “Robust clinical governance must surround treatment”
Conclusion 3, both Interim and Final, was that “Informed consent is a fundamental principle underlying all healthcare”
In Annexe C: Parliamentary Action (page 21 of PPC/S5/17/10/1) the Cabinet Minister for Health, Shona Robison answered question S5W-07749 by Neil Findlay, MSP on the 17 March 2017, by stating:
“Informed consent and shared decision making are expected prior to any procedure being carried out. The Chief Medical Officer goes into this in more detail in her Realistic Medicine report.”
The Clerk, in point 7, (page 2 of PPC/S5/17/10/1) confirms that:
“The Scottish Government does not have the power to regulate what medical devices are licensed for use in the UK. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) regulates medical devices in the UK”
The Clerk, in point 12 (page 3 of PPC/S5/17/10/1) includes quotations from the Preface of the Review’s Independent Report:
“We found some concerning features about how new techniques are introduced into routine practice” and that
“We are aware that some of our conclusions have wider implications and see the need to embed this in patient Safety and Clinical Governance strands of the NHS”
Points of Evidence by Dr Peter J Gordon (GMC number 3468861) • HDL62: the Scottish Government has acknowledged that this Guidance is not being followed by NHS Boards • There have been media reports that NHS professionals working in Scotland, who are involved in educating NHS staff about Mesh procedures, have been paid by commercial sectors who have financial interest in Mesh products. • PE1493, A Sunshine Act for Scotland, was closed in February 2016 • A Public Consultation on PE1493 was undertaken by the Scottish Health Council. The Scottish public, in majority, were of the view that it should be mandatory for all financial payments made to healthcare workers and academics to be declared in a publically accessible form • No meaningful update has been provided by the Scottish Government since this Public Consultation was published more than a year ago. • I fully support the Chief Medical Officer’s “Realistic Medicine” initiative and I have suggested that Sunshine legislation should be considered an essential part of this development • I agree with the Independent Review that “robust clinical governance must surround treatment”. I am concerned that if the current situation continues, where “education” of health professionals may be significantly based on marketing, further examples of iatrogenic harm may occur in NHS Scotland. • The Independent Review concluded that “informed consent is a fundamental principle underlying all healthcare”. If the advice given to patients is based on marketing, either partially or wholly, then informed consent may be denied patients. Further examples of Iatrogenic harm may then unfortunately occur and healthcare in Scotland may risk being considered as unrealistic rather than “realistic”.
Update, 22 May 2017:
Public Petitions Committee – Scottish Parliament: 18 May 2017 (click on image below to watch the full meeting)
The official report of the Public Petitions Committee of 18 May 2017
Sunday Post, 21 May 2017: ‘Probe to examine possible conflicts of interest in troubled mesh implant inquiry’
This film is about Auchenhard (Auchinhard) In West Lothian, Scotland.
A birth place of light.
Music credits: Badly Drawn Boy – “The Shining” and “Piano Theme”
As an NHS Psychiatrist who has worked in Scotland as a Consultant for over 15 years I want to offer my full support for this petition.
Recently at a Cross Party Group meeting held at the Scottish Parliament it was stated that “depression is under-recognised across all age groups” and that “maintenance treatment has a good risk-benefit ratio.” This was said without acknowledging that these statements cannot be made with absolute certainty.
I have found that my profession in Scotland seems to resist evidence of experience and at the same time prioritise the opinions of experts.
Potential for Expert Bias (one):
There is evidence that establishes that senior Scottish psychiatrists, who have provided expert input to Scottish Government strategies, and who have been involved in developing National prescribing guidelines, have had significant financially-based vested interests.
Potential for Expert Bias (two):
It is worth perhaps pointing out that Scottish Psychiatry has been traditionally orientated around biological determinants of mental health. Like myself, many academics have concluded that Scottish psychiatry lacks real-world, pluralistic breadth to the science of the mind and brain. Across the border, in England and Wales, the approach is far less reductionist. This includes the involvement of experts whose interests are not solely focussed on the bio-medical determinants of mental health.
I do prescribe psychiatric medications including antidepressants but I do not agree with the ‘experts’ that prescribing in Scotland is “conservative”. 1 in 7 Scots are now taking antidepressants.
Appropriate and informed prescribing is what we seek where there is open discussion about the potential benefits and potential harms of such treatments. This and an honest consideration that for many medications we cannot be certain of long-term effects.
Dr Peter J Gordon GMC number 3468861
This is a film about Haining castle. From the late 17c this castle was renamed as “Almond castle”. This film is a reminder that we may outlive labels or that labels may be outlived.
Today, Almond castle or Haining Castle (if you are a traditionalist) stands in an old industrial estate and brickworks with burnt out cars and rubbish as its landscape setting.
The quotes in this film are about the poet Ted Hughes. I was reminded of Hughes at the castle as the crows had made it there home. Crows often featured in Hughes work.
The music is “Exit Music” by Steven Lindsay
On the 26th of April 2016 I attended the Cross Party Group on Mental Health and Older People, Age and Ageing, held at the Scottish Parliament. The following is an account of my experience of this meeting and some reflections on conversations that have followed it.
At the end of this post are included two papers that were submitted ahead of the Cross Party meeting: a paper by me entitled “May it be granted the older you are” and a paper by Mr Hunter Watson entitled “Psychoactive Medications”.
I have been to quite a number of Scottish Parliamentary Committee meetings but this was the first Cross Party Meeting that I have attended. How welcome it was to see such a good turn out with a packed committee room. I am inclined to conclude that this indicates how important it is that we value our older generation. It was however unfortunate that other parliamentary business meant that various parliamentarians had to absent themselves.
I was keen to attend this meeting for a number of reasons. Having an interest in the Scottish Government’s “Ten Year Vision” for Mental Health I had attended one of its consultation events in Edinburgh and had also submitted a written response. There were 574 written responses in total, which again seems most encouraging.
Given that opportunities for anyone to raise discussion, at parliamentary level, about the Scottish Government’s ‘Ten Year Vision’ may not come along very often, I felt it was important, as the only NHS psychiatrist for older adults at this Cross Party meeting, to do my best to put forward the experiences of my patients.
I was very impressed that the convener, Sandra White, MSP made sure that as many voices as possible were heard at the meeting. I wrote to thank her for this.
I was particularly struck by the compelling and worrying testimonies of Rosemary Carter and Dianna Manson whose experiences as older adults with mental health issues remind us starkly how important it is that policy makers consider very carefully the consequences of visions set for the years ahead.
Rosemary Carter highlighted her experience of how the dominance of cognitive assessments in my profession has reduced capacity to care for those who have non-cognitive mental ill health. As a professional working in this area I share her concern and am of the view that Rosemary is far from alone in her experience. When the Dementia Strategies and Targets were first introduced in Scotland from 2010 onwards, it was my concern about this potential for inverse care, and for increased stigma associated with ageing, that led me to advocate publicly for a timely approach to the diagnosis of dementia. I did so at a time when this approach had no support whatsoever from policy makers, healthcare or the Mental Welfare Commission.
I thought that Angela Dias of “Action in Mind” spoke with clarity and genuine concern about what she termed “institutional discrimination” relating to older adults with mental health issues living in Scotland today.
Mr Hunter Watson’s concerns about human rights for older adults do, in my opinion, need to be carefully considered.
The Principal Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr John Mitchell, acknowledged several times the evidence that those with chronic mental health disorders die 15-20 years earlier than those who do not. He stated at this meeting that this is a “huge finding, a universal finding, a huge inequity”. Academics are increasingly of the view that one of the potential reasons for such early death has been the prescribing of psychiatric medications. This is why I mentioned a number of times at the meeting the widely gathered evidence (PE1493, Sunshine Act for Scotland) that the pharmaceutical industry continues to have a significant role in the “education” of Scottish doctors in the prescribing of psychiatric medications.
I thought the presentation by Dr David Christmas was most interesting and share his concern that there is an imbalance in research studies across the age ranges. I raised a number of questions with Dr Christmas because he works as a “super-specialist” and so deals with a very select group of patients.
At the Cross Party meeting Dr Christmas stated that “depression is under-recognised across all age groups” and that “maintenance treatment has a good risk-benefit ratio.” He did so without acknowledging that these statements cannot be made with absolute certainty.
I have attended a wide range of GMC-required Continuing Medical Education (CME) and so over the years have found that I have attended a number of educational talks given by Dr David Christmas. He always carefully talks through his declarations of interest which for at least the last five years do not include any financial interests other than his employment with NHS Tayside as the Clinical lead of the Advanced Intervention Service.
Dr Christmas is a member of the Psychopharmacology Committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The Chair of this most influential committee (in terms of the prescribing of psychiatric drugs) is Professor Allan Young, a “key opinion leader”. Professor Allan Young declares his extensive financial interests as follows: “Paid lectures and Advisory Boards for all major pharmaceutical companies with drugs used in affective and related disorders” . A similar key opinion leader, Professor Stephen Stahl, gave a keynote talk at the British Association of Psychopharmacology in 2015. As he is American, and they have a Sunshine Act, it is possible to establish Professor Stahl’s earnings from promoting psychiatric drugs. When last looked at, this was more than $3.5 million dollars. In the absence of a similar Sunshine Act in the UK we cannot establish the scale of payments made in the UK.
Dr Christmas has given educational lectures alongside Dr Hamish McAllister-Williams who is also a member of the Psychopharmacology Committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), and who was appointed in 2012 as Director of Education for the British Association of Psychopharmacogy (BAP).
Dr McAllister-Williams declares a wide range of financial interests with the Pharmaceutical Industry. Dr McAllister Williams is “a major contributor” to the RCPsych and BAP Continuing Professional Development programme.
It was with this knowledge, of the influential position that Dr Christmas has in terms of the education of UK psychiatrists, that after the Cross Party Meeting I wrote to ask Dr Christmas to ask if he might support a Sunshine Act for Scotland? At the meeting Dr Christmas took time to carefully address other biases (which I share his concern about) but did not do the same for the financial biases that may affect the advice given by key opinion leaders. The same potential exists for research itself.
In my correspondence with Dr Christmas I reminded him that I prescribe both antidepressants and antipsychotics but explain to patients that the best evidence we have is generally based on short-term studies and that all interventions (including psychological interventions) can have both benefits and harms.
I have confirmed with Dr Christmas that I share his determination to seek science that is as objective as possible and that this means that I realise that biases do indeed come in all forms and not just financial. I simply argue that science should be based on transparency or it ceases to be science. My view is that it is not necessarily a bad thing if doctors are paid for their time and expertise working outwith the NHS. For example, working for NICE, or giving expert views to court. However, when a doctor has a financial “conflict of interest”, this can affect the treatment decisions they make, or recommend. These conflicts cannot be entirely avoided, and in many cases they are entirely reasonable. However, it is important that information is available on which companies have paid a doctor, so that colleagues and patients can decide for themselves what they think. For example, there is longstanding evidence that exposure to industry promotional activity can lead to doctors recommending worse treatments for patients.
I have also discussed with Dr Christmas the view that proportionality of understanding should come in words as well as numbers and that the quantitative and qualitative require ‘parity of esteem’.
In summary, I thought the Cross party meeting on Mental Health, Ageing and Older People was an excellent opportunity for a range of voices to share their thoughts and experiences. Such involvement is to be commended and I hope that both my profession and policy makers of all sorts may agree.
Dr Peter J. Gordon
(writing in my own time)
GMC registration: 3468861 Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists: number 12351 I have worked in NHS Scotland for over 25 years and I am employed with NHS Lothian as a Consultant in Psychiatry for Older Adults. As well as being a doctor and scientist, I am a philosopher, ethicist, and artist.
‘May it be granted the older you are’
Prepared to share with the Cross Party Group on Older People, Age and Ageing ahead of the meeting on the 26th April 2017
In this summary I will present original articles, reports and writing. I wish to keep my words spare.
William H. Thomas said this in 2004 in his book “What are Old People For?”:
On the 1724 ruin of Mavisbank (considered as Scotland’s finest ruined building) and carved on the sculpture “The Ageing Stone” by Dr Peter J. Gordon:
May you grow old either never or late,
and that you experience earthly changes late.
May what the numerous ages erode be restored intact,
may it be granted that the older you are,
the more beautiful you may shine.
[Dr Peter J Gordon was formerly a Trustee of Mavisbank House, Loanhead, Edinburgh.]
Ballatt and Campling in their acclaimed book (2011) “Intelligent Kindness” offered this concern about current approaches to healthcare:
I have argued in a number of publications that prevailing approaches in medicine, and particularly a primary focus on biomedicine may risk this outcome for our older generation:
The Scottish Government and Alzheimer Scotland had this recent four-page spread in a National newspaper:
The Scottish Government has indeed made progress with dementia care but we should be wary of repeated statements made by them that this is “world leading”.
Barak Obama, when President of the United States, said:
Scotland is a relatively small country and this may be one reason why biomedical determinism has prevailed without challenge. This approach to mental wellbeing has its place. I have reasoned in a number of publications, that unless philosophy is irrelevant, then biomedicine should not be the only determinant to wellbeing.
Owen Jones, in his 2014 book “The Establishment” insisted:
Personally I have very much valued the views and writings of individuals like Mr Hunter Watson and Mrs Chrys Muirhead. It disappoints me to have witnessed the ways that those in genuine positions of power have sometimes treated them. Simply because their views may not be shared.
Prescribing of psychotropic medications (of all types) has been rising year-on-year in Scotland for the last decade (ISD figures, Scottish Government). Rising in all age groups: including our children and our older generation. Reporting on this on the 5th October 2016, The Scotsman had as its front-page headline “Prescriptions for mental health drugs at 10-year high”.
Annette Leibing in an Editorial in Cult Med Psychiatry explored the origins of the widely used label/acronym “BPSD”:
One of the consequences of this has been the very wide practice of prescribing ‘off-label’ of antipsychotics in Scotland to those living with dementia. Unfortunately this wide practice has always lacked evidence for the “appropriateness” of such prescribing:
Promotion of “off-label” use of drugs is still widespread practice in the UK and, if anything, has become more embedded since the introduction of GMC required ‘Continuing Medical Education’ (CME):
The above was the concern of the Royal College of psychiatrists in 2005 (twelve years ago). However the Royal College of Psychiatrists has stated recently that this is “now a thing of the past” and that psychiatry is “puritanical” in its relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. Unfortunately real-world evidence does not support this statement (see the wide-ranging evidence gathered for ‘A Sunshine Act for Scotland’ )
Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer is to be commended for her initiative Realistic Medicine. I have presented the reasons to the Scottish Government why a Sunshine Act for Scotland must be a necessary part of this.
[For instance: If we had a Sunshine Act perhaps the MESH scandal and so much harm might have been avoided.]
Dr Margaret McCartney, Glasgow GP, author, BMJ columnist has outlined the harmful consequences of Industry being in the driving seat. One aspect of this is ‘inverse care’. More than two years on since Dr McCartney wrote this and we find that no NHS Board area in Scotland is achieving more than 54% of the “guaranteed” Post-Diagnostic Support:
More than two years ago this “Change Paper” was published in the British Medical Journal. Professor Burns is the National Clinical Director for Dementia in NHS England and Wales:
In response, I submitted this published rapid-response to the British Medical Journal:
I welcome this “change page”.  The authors describe the routine prescription, off-label, of antipsychotics to our most vulnerable elderly. At a recent international conference one presentation referred to the estimate that “2/3rds of current UK prescriptions for antipsychotics in people with dementia are inappropriate”. These reports remind us that those living with dementia are often considered to lack “capacity” and their voice is easily lost. My previous correspondence to the BMJ has demonstrated my view that our profession should not be “educated” by commerce or industry.  In 1999, as a doctor in training, I was handed a document by my trainer. This I was told was “the way forward”. The document had an acronym: “BPSD”. I had not heard of “BPSD”. I learned that this acronym stood for “Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms in Dementia”.I accepted it with little thought. The comprehensive BPSD document was produced by Pharma: though at the time, and for almost a decade thereafter, I was not aware of this fact. I am aware that a number of NHS guidelines are in existence for the treatment of “BPSD”.  Haloperidol, in lowest possible dose, is generally the drug recommended. My concerns over prescribing of antipsychotic drugs like Haloperidol in a frail elderly population, led me to raise a petition for a “Sunshine Act” with the Scottish Government.  It has been my experience that marketing activity by the pharmaceutical industry, and also “education” by key opinion leaders paid for by the pharmaceutical industry, have in the past encouraged the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs. Until we acknowledge this mechanism, we risk losing the opportunity to minimise the harm of such an approach. References 1-5
Four months later this research was published:
It should be noted that antipsychotics also can cause side-effects (morbidity) as well as increasing risk of mortality. Such side effects include: parkinsonism, sedation, mental dulling, excess salivation, weight gain, cardiac disturbances and hormonal dysregulation. This is why, as an NHS doctor for older adults, I use antipsychotics as sparingly as I can and generally when all other options have reasonably been tried. If I do prescribe antipsychotics I try to do so for as short a period as possible.
The SIGN 86 “National Clinical Guideline” on “Management of patients with Dementia” was published in 2006. A review of national guidelines on dementia, published in 2013, established that this was found to be almost the worst national guideline for dementia in the world (certainly in terms of consideration of ethics)
I have written about my concerns that financially vested interests may have played a significant part in the development of SIGN Guideline 86 on Dementia:
Last year Sign 86 Guideline was withdrawn. There has been no replacement – despite the promise made within SIGN 86 – to have it reconsidered by 2011.
The following slides consider failures of governance for National Guidelines such as SIGN:
One of my interests is in ethics. I share the ethicists’ view that we all may suffer if our shared determination scientific objectivity is compromised for vested reasons. It was this consideration that led me (in 2013) to petition the Scottish Parliament to consider introducing a Sunshine Act for Scotland:
My petition was closed in February 2016 after wide gathering of evidence and a Public Consultation.
The public consultation revealed that the Scottish public support the petition and that in majority they would like to see all payments made to doctors, healthcare workers and academics to be publically declared on an open, central register.
More than a year on since this consultation was concluded and the public has had no meaningful update from the Scottish Government.
In the Observer newspaper of 1st October 2016 an Editorial our older generation ended:
I also want to end by celebrating the real value of our older generations.
This was a rapid response to the British Medical Journal by myself that was published 2nd September 2015
The contributions of those “retired” often prove invaluable: Yesterday I was at a consultation event held by Healthcare Improvement Scotland which sought wider views on a proposed national approach to “Scrutiny” of health and social care in Scotland (1). At the meeting I met a number of individuals who had been designated “retired” on their name badge. I was not surprised to find that during the course of the consultation event, the contributions of those “retired” proved to be invaluable. Returning home on the train I thought about this a little more. Names like J K Anand, L Sam Lewis and Susanne Stevens, all regular submitters to the BMJ rapid responses came into my mind. All describe themselves as “retired” and one happily calls himself “an old man”. The contributions by retired folk have always struck me as having a different quality to those by people who are still employees of today’s NHS. In “retirement” there may be a greater freedom to ask questions of prevailing approaches. Our older generation also has great experience which should be considered as “evidence” in itself. Yet in my job as a doctor for older adults, I see the world around me as seeming to do its best to reduce our elders. The language used in discussing our elders commonly denotes some sort of loss. For example the “guru” of Healthcare Improvement Don Berwick talks about the “Silver Tsunami”. Other healthcare leaders talk of “epidemics” and “challenges”, implying that our elders are a burden to younger generations. To address these “challenges” the healthcare improvers, it seems to me, are devising shortcuts. Today these are often termed “tools” and may be part of “toolkits”. I have even heard healthcare improvers discussing the need to “invent” a “tool” for patient centredness. I think our elders, or those “retired”, might consider this to be particularly ridiculous. So I would like to say three cheers for the “retired” folk. To discourse they bring wisdom, to the prevailing methodologies they are more willing to ask critical questions, and when it comes to cutting through to what matters, being true to oneself, our elders are superior to many, if not most, policy makers. References 1 and 2
Mr Hunter Watson also submitted a paper ahead of the Cross Party Meeting on Mental Health and Older People, Age and Ageing. It is included below:
In the report entitled “Remember, I’m still me” psychoactive medication is described as “medicines used to treat behavioural symptoms, like agitation, verbal and physical aggression, wandering and not sleeping”. From this description it seems clear that psychoactive medication is regarded by some as medication which can be used as chemical restraint rather than for the purpose for which it was developed.
That report, which was published in April 2009, was based upon what was found when the Care Commission and the Mental Welfare Commission made joint visits to a sample of 30 care homes in Scotland. The authors observed that “While we saw some examples of good practice, our findings reveal that overall, care in Scotland’s care homes needs to improve significantly in order to meet the needs of people with dementia who live in them”.
The report also noted that “Although most staff were aware of different types of therapies recommended for caring for people with dementia, they told us they were not using them or encouraging them to be used as they did not feel their knowledge was sufficient and they did not have enough time.”
In May 2014 there was published a report entitled “Dignity and respect: dementia continuing care visits”. This report was based upon what the Mental Welfare Commission found when it visited 52 NHS units providing longer-term care for people with dementia. Among its findings were the following:
84% of people were on at least one psychotropic medication (i.e. psychoactive medication) with 30% on three or more, in many cases without evidence of regular reviews 175 people (52%) were taking anxiolytic medication, mainly Diazepam or Lorazepam, with 65 of the 175 (37%) receiving this on a regular basis. This level of use is disturbing and is much higher than the level of use we found in Remember, I'm still me where only 19% of people with dementia in care homes were prescribed anxiolytic medication. The British National Formularly (BNF) states "Anxiolytic medication should be limited to the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time". 166 people (45%) were taking antipsychotic medication. While this may be helpful in relieving symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, agitation or aggression, there are known risks for people with dementia. All antipsychotic medications increase the risk of stroke and death, many can impair mobility and increase the risk of falls. Although people with dementia in NHS care may present with more challenging and complex problems than people with dementia in other care settings, staff skills and knowledge and staff numbers should be better. We were concerned at the high usage of antipsychotic medication often in combination with anxiolytics or sedative antidepressants.
In October 2016 there was issued a National Statistics Publication for Scotland entitled “Medicines used in Mental Health”. It provided statistics for the years 2005/06 to 2015/16. Among the facts contained therein are the following:
All NHS Boards show increased prescribing of antipsychotic drugs since 2009/10. The total number of prescription items dispensed for psychoses and related disorders increased between 2014/15 and 2015/16 ... This follows a gradual increase over the last ten years. The majority of the drugs used in the treatment of psychoses and related disorders are antipsychotic drugs.
In June 2010 there was published a document entitled “Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy”. This document made clear that the Scottish Government was committed to “ensuring that people receiving care in all settings get access to treatment and support that is appropriate with a particular focus on reducing the inappropriate use of psychoactive medication …”
In May 2013 there was published a document entitled “Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy: 2013 – 16”. In this document it was stated that “The first Dementia Strategy identified that a key driver to ensure care and treatment is always safe, effective and appropriate is working with partners to reduce the inappropriate prescribing of psychoactive medication for people with dementia”. In order to try to achieve this goal an expert working group was asked “To agree and recommend a national commitment on the prescribing of psychoactive medications (excluding cognitive enhancers), as part of ensuring that such medication is used only where there must be a likelihood of benefit to the person with dementia and where there is no appropriate alternative”.
In a 1998 edition of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (No 13) there appeared an article entitled “Medication Use in Nursing Homes for Elderly People”. In the summary it was stated “Residents of nursing and residential homes are often prescribed medication for physical and mental ill-health with resultant polypharmacy and the possibility of iatrogenic disorders. (Disorders caused by medication.) Sometimes drugs are prescribed inappropriately and a number of studies have highlighted the overuse of psychotropic drugs. Legislation in the USA has been effective in controlling their use in that neuroleptic prescriptions (i.e. antipsychotic prescriptions) for the treatment of behavioural disturbances have been significantly reduced and non-pharmacological strategies aimed at ameliorating behavioural disturbances have been proposed.”
In the editorial of the BMJ of 1 April 2006 it was stated, with reference to an article entitled “Managing challenging behaviour in dementia”, that “… the behaviour of staff … may play a central role in the manifestation of challenging behaviours in patients … a new culture of dementia care should focus on meeting individual patient’s needs rather than on restraint.”
On 3 June 2011 I was sent from the USA a copy of an article entitled “The wrong drugs in nursing homes. Too many antipsychotics” The article was written by Daniel Levinson, the inspector general in the Department of Health and Human Services. Within that article it is stated that “Researchers found that 88 percent of the time, these drugs (antipsychotics) were prescribed for elderly people with dementia. This is precisely the population that faces an increased risk of death when using this class of drugs, according to the FDA.The report didn’t investigate why patients with dementia are prescribed antipsychotic drugs so often. But a series of lawsuits and settlements that my office helped to bring about suggests that many pharmaceutical companies have improperly promoted these drugs to doctors and nursing homes for many years.”
Observations and recommendations: The production of dementia strategies has been ineffective in reducing the prescribing of life-threatening antipsychotic drugs to people with dementia in care homes and hospitals. The Scottish Government should, therefore, agree that, as recommended by the Mental Welfare Commission, there be a wide review of mental health and incapacity legislation when the place of learning disability and autism in current mental health legislation is reviewed. When carrying out that review full account should be taken of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Guidelines should be produced for the use of antipsychotics and otherpsychoactive drugs for people with dementia. These guidelines should take full account of the recommendations in the British National Formularly. Note should be taken of the fact that the guidelines in SIGN 86 have now been withdrawn since they became out of date. New National Care Standards for Care Homes for Older People should be produced. These new standards should not suggest that medication could be used as restraint in response to "restless or agitated behaviour" as do the existing care standards. This suggestion positively encourages care home staff to request that a doctor prescribes an antipsychotic for a resident whose behaviour is perceived as challenging. Unfortunately some doctors are too ready to accede to such a request and do not properly consider whether the known risks outweigh the potential benefits nor attempt to obtain the informed consent of the patient. There seems to be an incorrect assumption by some that care home residents, especially those with dementia, would be incapable of passing the recognised test of capacity to make a treatment decision. New regulations should specify that doctors must take due account of prescribing guidelines when they prescribe antipsychotics to care home residents and also that they must give a written explanation of any decision to do this. The care inspectorate should confirm that due account has been taken of prescribing guidelines and also that acceptable written explanations have been provided. The regulations should specify sanctions which could be taken against care homes in which there has been evidence of an excessive and inappropriate use of antipsychotics or other psychoactive drugs It should be recognised that in Scotland, as in the USA, pharmaceutical companies could have been improperly making payments when marketing their psychoactive drugs as suitable for use in the treatment of care home residents and others. The Scottish Government, therefore, should make it mandatory for doctors, healthcare workers and academics to disclose publicly all payments from the pharmaceutical industry. Peter Gordon, a consultant in old age psychiatry, submitted petition PE1493 to the Petitions Committee in the hope that it would lead to the Scottish Government agreeing to enact the necessary legislation which he suggested could be named the Sunshine Act. However, in an email dated 14 April 2017 sent to the Minister for Mental Health and others he stated "A year on and there has been no meaningful public update from the Scottish Government on PE1493 and a Sunshine Act". The Scottish Government should give serious consideration to Peter Gordon's proposal. Caring for elderly people with dementia is a demanding task but the care homes which have the responsibility for their care are commonly under-staffed and under-funded. Such homes are unable to pay staff sufficient to ensure that they do not leave for better paid and less demanding work elsewhere, such as in a supermarket. The consequence is that in some care homes there is a high turnover and hence a lack of properly trained staff. In these circumstances it is not surprising that care homes resort to the use of psychoactive medication when residents present problems. It should be recognised that in order to ensure that people with dementia are properly cared for more resources must be devoted to social care and that, if necessary, taxes should be raised to achieve this.