The idea behind HealthWatch was first put to journalist and broadcaster Nick Ross in the 1980s by the eminent cancer surgeon Professor Michael Baum. “Michael told me about some tragic cases he’d seen at his breast cancer clinic — women whose condition had disintegrated into suppurating sores because they'd shunned conventional treatment in favour of various alternative therapies that were just not working”.
Nick Ross was among a small group of professionals who met to share Professor Baum’s concern at patients risking their health, not to mention wasting their money, on unproven treatments. HealthWatch was born, with Nick appointed joint president with Michael O'Donnell.
Its inaugural meeting was held on 1 November 1988 at The Old Bell Tavern in Fleet Street, followed by gatherings at the Royal Society of Medicine. Finally a committee was elected towards the end of the first year whose members included the pathologist Professor Vincent Marks, the medical nutritionist Professor John Garrow, lawyers Diana and Malcolm Brahams, and medical journalist Caroline Richmond.
The original name was the Campaign against Health Fraud, but it was changed to HealthWatch at our second AGM, held on 12 July 1990.
While initially concerned with unproven treatments, over the years HealthWatch has widened its area of concern and now promotes evidence and integrity in all forms of medicine and healthcare. Being completely independent, HealthWatch is able to oppose poor evidence whether it is found in alternative remedies, clinical research, pharmaceutical products, government-run programmes, or the media.
Nick Ross continues as HealthWatch’s president. Its patrons are Dr Margaret McCartney, comedian Robin Ince, Professor Steve Jones FRS, Sir Michael Rawlins and Lord Dick Taverne.
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