‘Have you ever noticed that certain days are injury days?’

I was filming in our garden today as the sky was beautiful, the spring bulbs colourful, and the green as fresh as can be.

By chance, an NHS Forth Valley lorry passed in front of the camera. My heart missed a beat. The lorry was advertising the Minor Injuries Unit.

Three years have nearly passed since I resigned from NHS Forth Valley. When an employee with NHS Forth Valley I championed an ethical and evidenced-based approach to the diagnosis of dementia and for transparency in terms of financial interests of staff.

As a consequence of this, I myself left NHS Forth Valley with injuries. Not physical injuries but just as real.

Looking back, I am proud to have tried my wee best to put ethics at the very heart of my practice. To stand up for those who may not be as able or who may feel frightened to stand up for themselves.

The title of this film comes from the novel “Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler

The music is by Steven Lindsay – “Exit Music”

At the end of the corridor

 

Making science a reality

It has been a long time since I last wrote on Hole Ousia about my activism for a science that strives for objectivity.

It is probably reasonable to suggest that no other in the British Isles has given more to this cause than I have.

I petitioned the Scottish Parliament to consider introducing a Sunshine Act for Scotland. Much evidence was gathered for this petition and this was then shared in a formal public consultation.

The Scottish public agreed, in majority, that payments from the pharmaceutical industry and device makers to healthcare professionals need to be declared on a mandatory basis. At the time, this landmark consultation was neither reported in the mainstream press nor the medical press. A year on the Scottish Government has provided no meaningful update.

It was thus with considerable interest that I read the following editorial in the current British Medical Journal:

The full article can be accessed here from the BMJ:






Open and transparent from omphalos on Vimeo.

The stories we hear and the stories we tell

The stories we hear and the stories we tell from omphalos on Vimeo.

Forgive me for worrying about the lack of philosophy and ethics in science and healthcare today.

Courage to care













 

‘And in his needy shop a tortoise hung’

Hale Bopp teddy has travelled wide. Occasionally he sees his reflection in Brass plates. In this case the Royal College of Physicians, Queen Street Edinburgh.

The first series of quotes are by Gabriel García Marquez:

garcia-marquez-on-medicine-01 garcia-marquez-on-medicine-02 garcia-marquez-on-medicine-03

The second series of quotes are from "A Doctor's Line" 
by Sir Kenneth C Calman:

kenneth-calman-on-medicine-01 kenneth-calman-on-medicine-02 kenneth-calman-on-medicine-03 kenneth-calman-on-medicine-04 kenneth-calman-on-medicine-05

 

 

To root in these very specific places

T S Eliot rooted poems about ideas in very specific places. He was very interested in yew trees:


The following film is on the Fortingall Yew.

Time passes. Listen.

Gilbert Farie Revisited

I made this film 5 years ago.

In the five years that have passed since making, prescribing of antidepressants has risen from 1-in-9 Scots to 1-in-7. My view is that this is most unhealthy.

Time moves on and I would perhaps change a few words in this film. That said I feel that this film remains an important presentation:

Were we asleep at the wheel?

At the beginning of June 2008 I sent an e-mail to Dr Leon Eisenberg, a former child psychiatrist, and a man of philosophy and science:
leon-eisenberg
Dr Eisenberg was then 89 years old and I wanted to convey how important his writings had been to me:mindlessness-and-brainlessness-in-psychiatry-1986
I did not expect a reply:
leon-eisenberg-to-peter-gordon-8-june-2016

A year later Leon Eisenberg died.

were-we-asleep-at-the-switch

After his death a memoir was discovered: which Eisenberg had named “Were We Asleep at the Switch?”.

Eisenberg suggested that a switch from ‘mind’ to ‘body’ has taken place in psychiatry as a discipline, which has led to overuse of medication.

He also argued that “monied interests” had been making de facto decisions on behalf of us all about the “science” of things that might affect us.

Eisenberg was worried that the overwhelming impact of economic considerations may have rendered, and might continue to render futile, the professional contributions of many brilliant, timely, and concerned working scientists.

leon-eisenberg-1987b

The Scottish Public Want Sunshine

There is a long standing joke about the lack of sunshine in Scotland.

Three years ago I began the process of raising a petition with the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a Sunshine Act.

A Sunshine Act makes it a statutory requirement for all payments from commercial interests made to healthcare workers and academics to be declared publically. The metaphor is that sunshine brings full light. Both the United States of America and France have introduced a sunshine act.

The doctor in Gabriel García Marquez’   ‘Living to tell the tale’ says “Here I am not knowing how many of my patients have died by the Will of God and how many because of my medications”. Márquez often returns to the theme of medical ethics in his writings and reminds us that all interventions have the potential for benefit and harm.  In ‘No one writes to the Colonel’, “a man [who] came to town selling medicines with a snake around his neck”. Here Márquez is reminding us of the long history of the financial opportunities open to healthcare professionals.

As a junior doctor in around 2000, I was handed by a Consultant a several hundred page document entitled “Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of dementia”. The Consultant told me “this is the way forward!” Some years on I came to realise that this document had been developed, funded and disseminated by the Pharmaceutical Industry whose first loyalty, as a business, is to its share-holders.

In the wake of the dissemination of this document, prescribing of antipsychotics, sedatives and antidepressants in Scotland has been rising year on year. This has been described as mass prescribing, and is often long-term. Yet the evidence to support such prescribing is poor.

There is much promotion of “partnership working” between industry and healthcare. Yet we must remember that these two partners have different aims, and it is the responsibility of healthcare workers to follow the ethical approaches central to their professions. For example, the General Medical Council is clear about what is expected of doctors in their code “Good Medical Practice”. The potential for conflicts of interest is recognised and doctors are advised “you must be open about the conflict, declaring your interest formally”.

Since 2003, Scottish Government guidance has been in place to allow the declaration of financial interests of NHS staff, to their employing health boards. As a result of my petition, the Scottish Government has confirmed that this guidance is not being followed.

One key area of concern is the continuing professional education of healthcare professionals, another requirement of professional bodies. In at least two Boards in NHS Scotland, continuing medical education relies entirely on the financial support of commercial interests.

National and international conferences may also form part of continuing professional education. Because of the Sunshine Act in the USA, we know that a key-note speaker at a recent UK conference has been paid more than £3 million dollars by the pharmaceutical industry since the Sunshine Act was introduced. There is currently no way of knowing the scale of any payment made to a UK speaker sharing the same platform.

My experience of trying to clarify if there is transparency about financial payments in Scotland has been revealing. I have encountered significant defensive reactions from individuals and organisations. There has long been a body of evidence that, for example, prescribing behaviour is influenced by commercial interests, yet doctors find it hard to accept this. This collective denial would suggest that the forthcoming (voluntary) ABPI Register is unlikely to work as many will regard it as not applying to them and will therefore opt out.

As part of their consideration of my petition, the Scottish Government commissioned a public consultation exercise on a need or not for a Sunshine Act. The majority of participants expressed their view that all financial payments should be declared on a single, central, searchable register and that this should be a mandatory requirement.

The forecast for Scotland looks good: sunshine.