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Private Eye

February 18, 2010

Private Eye Column, Issue 1256, February 17, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , , — Dr. Phil @ 8:18 am


M.D. writes: Private Eye got it wrong in its coverage of MMR. It gave undue prominence to unproven theories based on a small number of uncontrolled observations, and paid far less attention to the weight of evidence from large comparative studies that failed to find any association between MMR and autism. While the Eye cited potential conflicts of interest in many of the key supporters of MMR, it failed to point out any unethical or prejudicial behaviour by Andrew Wakefield.

The 1998 Lancet paper that started the scare has now been removed from the medical literature on ethical grounds; and Wakefield, its leading author, may soon be removed from the medical register. Clearly what precious research money there is should now be used to test more credible hypotheses for the causes of autism.

The Eye has never claimed that the link between MMR and autism or bowel disease was proven; rather that better research was needed to answer the question conclusively. And it stressed the danger of infectious disease and the importance of vaccination. M.D. twice asserted that he had no safety concerns about MMR and that both his

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February 16, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column, Issue 1255, February 3, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , , — Dr. Phil @ 10:05 pm

Very human errors

Last year, MD met an Australian surgeon who tells his junior staff: ‘Your job is to stop me killing anyone.’ Nurses, receptionists, patients and relatives are all encouraged to speak up if they think something isn’t right, and it’s looked into promptly without knee-jerk blame. As a result, his cock-ups and complaints are commendably sparse and he has no shortage of applicants for his training posts.

The NHS has been trying to develop a grown-up safety culture for over a decade, but there is still a huge reluctance for staff to comment on each other’s work. A senior nurse who helped developed the national guidelines for the safe and sterile insertion of central venous lines recently observed a junior doctor putting a central line with a clearly dirty technique. The drapes weren’t in place and there was a danger he would introduce infection directly into the patient’s blood stream. But because it wasn’t her patient and she didn’t know the doctor, she didn’t feel in a position to comment.

The reticence of some NHS staff to offer constructive criticism and the unwillingness of others to accept it is at the heart of many clinical errors. When serious

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February 1, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column, Issue 1254, January 24, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , , — Dr. Phil @ 5:29 pm

Bristol Update

 ‘Failure to reconfigure child heart surgery will be a stain on the soul of the specialty and will compromise the treatment of the most vulnerable members of the next generation.’ So says NHS Medical Director and cardiac surgeon Sir Bruce Keogh, just 18 years after the Bristol heart scandal was exposed in Private Eye. The Public Inquiry a decade ago found that as many as 35 babies had died unnecessarily, and a review in 2003 recommended the concentration of scarce expertise and equipment in fewer centres. Alas, Labour ignored it for fear of the political ramifications. Keogh admits there has ‘frankly been little progress’ since the inquiry and he can’t at present guarantee that ‘another Bristol’ won’t happen. The job of fixing it has now been handed to the National Specialised Commissioning Group (NSCG), which since 2007 has been responsible for making sure the treatment for all rare and complex conditions is ‘safe and sustainable.’ As Keogh puts it: ‘The NSCG has to flex its muscles. Politicians have to accept their recommendations and clinicians have to put aside personal conflict and institutional self interest.’ And patients and parents have to accept they may have to travel further to

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January 10, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column, Issue 1253, January 10, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , — Dr. Phil @ 9:33 am

Have anyone read the NHS Constitution? The draft document was launched a year ago, when Gordon Brown, former health secretary Alan Johnson and NHS chief executive David Nicholson staged a glitzy Downing St signing of this ‘historic document’ that would repackage targets as ‘patients’ rights enshrined in law.’  All of us were encouraged to feedback by February 5, 2010. But a DoH survey a month ago found that only 47% of NHS staff were even aware of the constitution, and just 22% of patients. And virtually no-one had an in depth knowledge of what it contained, leading the researchers to conclude there was a ‘vision gap’ and that more work was needed to keep it ‘vital and fresh.’ 

As a result, health secretary Andy ‘Little Boy’ Burnham added seven ‘vital and fresh’ patient rights to the twenty five we still haven’t read. These are that patients should have the right to 1) choose to die at home 2) access NHS dentistry 3) have a personal health budget 4) choose a GP practice offering extended access to evening and weekend appointments 5) have key diagnostic tests for suspected cancer patients within one week of seeing a GP 6)  Be treated in

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December 20, 2009

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column, Issue 1252, December 20, 2009
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: — Dr. Phil @ 10:11 am

NHS Choices Feedback


The health service has ended the year with a health secretary out of his depth, two headless regulators and the threat of crippling financial cuts.  However, it does at least now have a facility for patients to feedback their experiences in NHS and private hospitals to enable others to make better choices about where they’re treated. Eye reader Alison Wilson recently posted feedback on the NHS Choices website about the care she received at North Staffordshire Nuffield at Newcastle-under-Lyme. Her message was:
Liked …
The staff in outpatients were kind and understanding, as were one or two of the staff on the ward.
The catering staff were very cheerful, kind and helpful.
My surgeon was excellent.

Disliked …
Attitude of most of the staff was offhand
Drug safety (prescribed a drug to which I am allergic, drugs missed, staff not knowing how the morphine syringe worked)
Poor cleanliness of facilities – and of me (as a patient who was unable to do much for myself)
General neglect, including neglect of some essential instructions from my consultant.
Found crying in bed by a visitor, where I had been

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