‘The medical untouchables’

The following is a recent opinion piece by Dr Des Spence published in the British Journal of General Practice.

I had been lined up to do the media interviews on BBC Scotland in relation to petition PE1651. However, on the day, due to changed travel arrangements, I was not available. Dr Des Spence was interviewed instead and did a better job than I could have done.

As an NHS doctor and specialist, I fully support this petition (PE1651) which calls on the Scottish parliament “to urge the Scottish Government to take action to appropriately recognise and effectively support individuals affected and harmed by prescribed drug dependence and withdrawal.”

I have submitted my response.

I feel it would be helpful to hear the views of the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland and in particular, how this matter might be considered as part of Realistic Medicine.

Three recent posts by me demonstrate the scale of competing financial interests in medical education in the UK. If you have a moment, you should have a look. Perhaps you might then share the worry that I have about this matter:

I have previously raised my own petition, PE1493, which the Scottish Public has supported. This was a petition for a Sunshine Act for Scotland, to make it mandatory for all financial conflicts of interest to be declared by healthcare professionals and academics.

My petition, supported by the public, had no support from “Realistic Medicine”. The public has had no update from the Scottish Government on my petition in 18 months. My view is that this is a shocking failure of governance and would seem to demonstrate a lack of respect for democracy.

‘Official Interference’

This is my reply to a blog that was posted in the Holyrood Magazine:

Thursday 13th July 2017

Dear Tom,
I read the blog post titled ‘Official Interference’ written by you in the Holyrood Magazine on the 7th July 2017.

It is welcome to see this matter considered further. I can be a bit slow on the uptake but I wasn’t entirely sure of the main points that you were trying to get across? I am not sure what you mean by “the real story” being about “accusations” of “subjectivity”? I am also not sure what Holyrood’s views may be on the necessary independence of report writers and the public accountability of civil servants?

Let me be entirely open. I have found my experience of communicating with senior civil servants working for the Department of Health and Social Care (DGHSC) most unsettling. In my communications I have put patients first. I have been a longstanding  advocate for ethical considerations in healthcare.

As a public servant (NHS doctor) I have been as open and transparent about my experiences as possible – and I have shared all that I can on my website Hole Ousia.

Over some years I have become aware that my personal experience of communication with senior civil servants has been shared by a significant number of others, many of whom have been labelled by DGHSC as “vexatious” or having a “grievance”.

DGHSC civil servants would seem to follow an approach that Prof Walter Hume described as familiar “the various techniques used by bureaucratic organisations to avoid responsibility when things go wrong: these include silence, delay, evasion, buck-passing and attempts to discredit complainants.”

Following the Times report by Helen Puttick and the subsequent report in the Scotsman, I compiled this blog-post:

Honesty and Openness: ‘not an edited official tale’

I should say that I am just an NHS doctor who has a number of interests and that I have neither any skills in politics nor in journalism. I am however interested in ethics and this includes consideration of the integrity of those who occupy positions of genuine power (such as elected politicians and publically paid senior civil servants).

On becoming First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon stated:

“I intend that we will be an open and accessible Government” (26th November 2014)

When giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament, the Director General for NHS Scotland, Paul Gray said:

“I think transparency in the NHS makes sense” (29 January 2014)

I would suggest that there is a growing public concern about senior civil servants working for the Scottish Government in terms of what they say and do.

The Commission on Parliamentary Reform’s “Report on the Scottish Parliament” published on the 20th June 2017 outlined steps that might help improve parliamentary approaches to ensuring necessary accountability of the Scottish Government. I have been made aware, for example, of a number of Petitions under review by the Scottish Parliament that may have been closed as a result of behind-closed-doors “advice” by senior civil servants working for the Scottish Government.

I will stop there Tom. No need to reply unless you so wish.

One closing point. It is most demoralising for hard-working NHS staff to hear repeatedly repeated, parrot-like, from Scottish Government “spokespeople” of “record NHS levels of staffing”. This fighting of reality is not helpful and suggests the sort of “subjectivity” that perhaps you were alluding to in your piece for the Holyrood Magazine?

I will be staging a peaceful protest (I am not party political) about the integrity of senior officials working for the Scottish Government this August at the Martyrs Monument.

Kind wishes,

Peter

Dr Peter J Gordon (writing in my own time and in a personal capacity)

Honesty and openness: ‘not an edited official tale’

When Nicola Surgeon became First Minister of Scotland she said:

“I intend that we will be an open and accessible Government” (26 November 2014)

On the Front page of the Times of  the 7th July 2017 was a report by the Scottish Health Correspondent, Helen Puttick that outlined the considerable efforts, made behind closed doors, of senior civil servants working for the Scottish Government to “tone down” this Report by Audit Scotland.



Further pressure was made to influence the Audit Scotland Report:

In considering the findings of this FOI inquiry, the Editor of the Times said that “the public deserve to know the true story on NHS funding and not an edited official tale”

The Civil Service Code of Conduct for Scotland outlines these core values:

These core values are what the public should expect from its civil servants if they are to fulfil the intention of Scotland’s First Minister.

 


‘How to Improve’

The Nuffield Trust has recently published “Learning from Scotland’s NHS”. This report was based on a select group of “30 senior leaders and experts from Scottish health and care”.

One of the primary “learning points” of this report was that Scotland should be considered as “the model of how to improve healthcare across the British isles”. What is not made clear in this report is that the improvement methodology that Scotland has embraced was introduced from the USA not by “30 senior leaders” but by three:

  1. Derek Feeley, President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and former Director General for NHS Scotland
  2. Professor Jason Leitch, who is a Dental practitioner, IHI Fellow and National Clinical Director of Healthcare Quality and Strategy (Scottish Government)
  3. Dr Brian RobsonIHI Fellow and Clinical Director of Healthcare Improvement Scotland

The “30 senior leaders and experts” would seem to be “marking their own homework”.

A few personal thoughts:

I am a passionate about science but am of the view that passion should not pre-determine scientific method and process.

I have previously argued why it is unhelpful to pre-determine science as “improvement”.

I fully welcome a coordinated approach to improving healthcare.

I worry about the inherent reductionism that is the basis of IHI “improvement science”

IHI promotes learning to healthcare based upon the experience of Industry (mechanical engineering). This may work well for less complex interactional processes, such as Hospital Acquired Infection. However healthcare is rarely linear (it is more often Bayesian) and reductionist interventions (however well intentioned) can cause harm.

I have found that Healthcare Improvement Scotland (IHI) does not routinely include ethical considerations in its approach to “improvement science”.

In summary:

I would suggest that it would have been more accurate (evidence based) for the Nuffield Trust report to have been titled: “Learning from the USA”.

I welcome all learning and from all reaches of the globe. I also seek improvement. But as a philosopher and NHS doctor (of 25 years) I worry about any one-system approach.

Science needs to consider culture, ethics, narrative, and the experience of being.

“How to Improve” needs to consider the voices of people and place. It should not just be the voices of the “senior leaders and experts from Scottish health and care”.

 

 

 

 

Would you like to join me?

 

INVITATION:

This is an invitation to join me on a peaceful protest to be held on Monday 21st August 2017 at the Martyrs Monument, Calton Hill Burial Ground, Edinburgh.

WHAT THE PROTEST IS ABOUT:

It is a protest for anybody who has had difficulty communicating with high public office in Scotland. For some this may have been with the Scottish Government – but it need not relate to any particular institution.

This protest is for anybody who has felt that those in a genuine position of power may have acted unfairly.

Professor Walter Humes, writing in Scottish Review, 21st September 2015:

“For some time I have been copied into email exchanges concerning how complaints against public bodies are dealt with. I have no personal stake in any of the specific sources of concern (which include patient care in the NHS and responses by Police Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to requests for formal investigations). I do, however, have a long-standing interest in issues of public accountability and am familiar with the various techniques used by bureaucratic organisations to avoid responsibility when things go wrong: these include silence, delay, evasion, buck-passing and attempts to discredit complainants.”

THE FIRST MINISTER’S “INTENTION”:

The First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I intend that we will be an open and accessible Government” 26 November 2014

Prof Walter Humes, 21 September 2015:

“Those who hold high office in public bodies are very adept at defending their own interests. They may claim to support openness and transparency but those principles are not always translated into practice. Bureaucratic Scotland often falls short of the democratic ideals which are said to underpin civic life”

WHY GATHER AT THE MARTYRS’ MONUMENT:

This film by me, “The Friends of Liberty“, explains why the Martrys Monument has been chosen for this protest. The location is next to St Andrew’s House, the seat of the Scottish Government. The Martyrs Monument rises higher and has a wider view than St Andrew’s House. The Martyrs Monument was raised through public donations.

WHY the 21st of AUGUST ?:

Reason 1: The foundation stone of the Martyrs’ Monument was laid on this very day, 1844.

Reason 2: on the 21st August 2017 there will be a full solar eclipse (sometime just before 8pm) revealing the power of one orb over another and our shared need for light.

THE PERSONAL STORY MATTERS:

Here is my experience with Scottish Government. I have been, and continue to be, an active advocate for ethical considerations in all aspects of healthcare in NHS Scotland. I am proud of what I have done and of who I am.

So if you have your own story please come along and share it. Together we can make a difference.

Acknowledgement:
It was Mrs Chrys Muirhead who suggested the 21st August 2017 as 
date for this protest. Her enquiring mind had led her to find that 
this date was both an anniversary of the laying of the Martyrs 
Monument foundation stone and also the very day, in 2017, when 
a solar eclipse will occur.

 

 

 

Submission on PE1517: Polypropylene Mesh Medical Devices

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’

Follow me

The First family of 6 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh was the Campbell family. A family whose wealth was made from the Brewing industry.

The Campbell family faced much tragedy. Above the family mausoleum in St Cuthbert’s, “Follow me” is inscribed.

Since 1966, the Campbell’s old home has been known as “Bute House” and is the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister.

This film is a plea for those elected Ministers gathering around the table in Bute House for the weekly Cabinet meeting to embrace Scottish intellectual pluralism. It is also a plea to recall all families of Scotland, however ordinary or extraordinary, and wherever their first home may have been.

Follow me from omphalos on Vimeo.

“The shadowy mandarin class deserves greater scrutiny”

This was a recent post by Walter Humes for the Scottish Review. 

I read this as a personal view about the civil service in Scotland 
(and not just about the governance of the NHS) so I (presume) 
that I am safe to share Professor Hume's view without worrying 
about any potential consequences for me as an NHS employee 
working in Scotland

Wednesday 14th October
I wonder how many SR readers would recognise one or more of the following names: Leslie Evans; Paul Johnston; Alyson Stafford; Graeme Dickson; Paul Gray; Sarah Davidson; Ken Thomson. They all hold important positions which enable them to influence decisions about the future direction of Scottish society. Leslie Evans is the most senior civil servant in Scotland, with the title of permanent secretary. The others head different directorates within the Scottish Government (Learning and Justice; Finance; Enterprise, Environment and Innovation; Health and Social Care; Communities; Strategy and External Affairs). They are called directors-general, a title that manages to carry both bureaucratic and military associations. Brief biographies of each can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Notwithstanding all the talk about openness in public administration, civil servants continue to prefer to remain in the background. They play down the power that they exercise, colluding with politicians in maintaining the fiction that it is always the latter who determine policy, the former merely advising and supporting. One of the most important ways in which senior civil servants can shape events is through their capacity to influence public discourse. They draft minutes, reports, consultation documents and policy statements. The skilful use of language can serve as a form of intellectual control.

The shadowy work of the mandarin class deserves to be subject to greater scrutiny than it normally receives. I offer this as a topic which the recently formed group of investigative journalists in Scotland – called The Ferret – might wish to pursue. They see their role as ‘sniffing up the trouser leg of power’. Sounds good to me.

Inspirational: the Chief Medical Officers for Scotland

The Chief Medical Officers for Scotland have been a huge inspiration to me.

I was delighted to hear, earlier this year, that Dr Catherine Calderwood had been appointed to this office to replace Harry Burns. My full support goes to Dr Calderwood in her appointment.

Last year I spoke at a Civic Trust event in Glasgow and was fortunate to follow Sir Harry Burns. His talk on “salutogenesis” accorded with all that Hole Ousia is about.

Salutogenesis from omphalos on Vimeo.

Kenneth Calman was the Chief Medical Officer before Harry Burns. No other Scottish doctor has inspired Hole Ousia writings more than Kenneth Calman.

001-Makars-&-Medicinersa 025 Makars & Mediciners

In my need to put patients first I have included the Director General for NHS Scotland in e-mails that I have considered important to patient safety and well-being. I admit to being persistent in this matter.

Communications sent but unanswered:
No response came from the office of the Director General for NHS Scotland. With this experience I eventually asked for a “read receipt”  (this is something I most rarely do) This appeared to establish that my communications were being received.  Following this, I reluctantly made a FOI request to the Scottish Government to ask why I had received no response to my communications. This was the reply:

Paul Gray 02

I cannot understand why the Director General did not re-direct my 
communications from outset.

My communications to the Director General were specifically about:

(1) Health and Social Care Integration

(2) Transparency in NHS Scotland

National conversation from omphalos on Vimeo.

the above film ends with the promise as made by 
the Director General for NHS Scotland

The consequence for me, as an NHS Consultant, for raising questions about patient safety:

Dr Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer

Footnote to the above e-mail:

I am not a "locum consultant". I am a substantive Consultant with 
NHS Lothian.

I agree with the Chief Medical Officer that my concerns relate to 
openness and accountability of the Scottish Government and 
especially its "advisors".

In my telephone conversation with the Chief Medical Officer, 
Dr Calderwood, I found that she never once asked about 
my wellbeing. Instead she seemed on guard, ill at ease:
almost as if she was hiding an ulterior motive 
for contacting my employers?

All I can say to anybody reading this: imagine the Chief Medical 
Officer for Scotland had expressed concerns about your 
mental "wellbeing"? 
How would you feel? 
How might your employers react? 
Might you feel that you had been re-defined? For better? Or for Worse?

My advice to the Scottish Government: do not be tempted, on the 
advice of your advisors, to so easily LABEL anybody for 
raising concerns. 

"See me".

First Minister Nov 2014

Director General for NHS Scotland

I have found it impossible to communicate directly with the Director General for NHS Scotland.

The Director General for NHS Scotland does not reply to e-mails sent to him unless you follow this advice from his office:

Paul Gray 02

Please note: The above includes only the first paragraph of the
Deputy Director's letter of the 15 October 2015.

It is essential to note that the Director General had repeated opportunities to make it clear to me that this was the process of communication to be followed. Unfortunately this never happened.

My advice to the Scottish Public is to carefully follow the advice as given by the Deputy Director, Colin Brown. Otherwise you may risk being considered “unwell”, as I have been,  for contacting the Director General through his, openly available Scottish Government, e-mail address.

Paul Gray, PAG1962, Year of Listening, NHS Scotland

Mr Paul Gray, the Director General for NHS Scotland: 
Year of Listening, 2016: "I've taken time to listen"

Over the last 8 months I felt it would not be constructive to attempt to communicate with the Office of the Director General of NHS Scotland.  However, following the EU Referendum the Director General wrote a letter to all NHS Scotland staff in which he stated “I greatly value the contribution of every member of staff in NHS Scotland”. Given that this had not been my experience, I wrote to dghsc@gov.scot expressing this reality which has led me to consider early retirement and asking: “I would be interested in your thoughts and if you have any words of support for me.”

I received the following reply (reproduced here exactly as it was sent):

paul-gray-director-general-chief-executive-1-july-2016

Below: an audio recording of a contribution I made to a 
BBC Radio Scotland discussion on retirement:

My communications in the past to the Director General related to my endeavour to put patients first, specifically in the areas of an ethical approach to the diagnosis of dementia and relating to my petition for a Sunshine Act. The lack of support I received in return is strikingly at odds with the following statement made by the Director General on the Scottish Health Council film below:

“We worry about transfer of power, transfer of responsibility. As far as I am concerned, the more power that patients have, the better. The more power that individuals have, the better. Because they are best placed to decide on what works for them.

To be frank, there is very clear evidence that if people feel powerless their wellbeing is greatly reduced.

If people feel that they have a degree of power, a degree of autonomy that actually helps their wellbeing. So to suggest that it involves something that relates to a loss of power on the part of the service provider, in order for the service user to gain, I think is quite wrong.

I think the service user, the patient, the carer, can have as much power as they are able to exercise without causing any loss or harm to the service provider whatsoever. Indeed I think it is greatly to the benefit of service providers to have powerful voices, powerful patients, and powerful service users, who are able to help us understand what works for them.”

Our Voice: support from senior leaders. 
Published by the Scottish Health Council

Perhaps the following explains why this admirable rhetoric does not seem to play out in practice:

Whistleblowing in NHS Scotland from omphalos on Vimeo.

In Dumfries and Galloway Health: Opinions & ideas, the Director General for NHS Scotland had published in July 2015: “Leadership in a rewarding, complex and demanding world”. The article is worth reading in full but here is one quote:

paul-gray-nhs-scotland-scottish-government-1

This was the response of the Deputy Director as shared with the Director General when I shared my experience of the NHS initiative “Everyone matters”:

deputy-director-to-director-of-nhs-scotland-hes-another-of-our-regular-correspondents

This report in the National describes the Director General’s approach to whistleblowing, an approach that would seem to address only selected recommendations of Sir Robert Francis:

No if yer a whistleblower it's no

all-nhs-workers-should-have-the-confidence-to-speak-up-without-fear-pag1962-paul-gray-chief-executiveThe above interview was published in the Herald on the 26th September 2016.

nhs-staff-too-scared-to-speak-out-paul-gray-chief-executive-pag1962

first-steps-towards-a-more-open-nhs-scotland-paul-gray-herald-chief-executive

In the month before the Director General shared his views with the Herald he had sent the following communication. I acknowledge that I have been persistent but would maintain that this was because of the lack of any substantive responses from his Department. This sort of behind the scenes approach by those in a genuine position of power highlights the very culture that Mr Gray needs to address.  I share the conclusions of the Editor of the Herald that “public statements of intent are not enough”.

from-the-director-general-nhs-scotland-15-aug-2016