The Autumn 2018 issue of the HealthWatch Newsletter is now online here!
The HealthWatch Newsletter is free to read and download. HealthWatch members will shortly receive their personal printed copy of the newsletter if they have opted to do so.
Featured in this issue:
- NEWS Lawyers attempt to silence Liverpool scientists; HealthWatch Symposium on debunking health myths; Sarah Wollaston to speak at HealthWatch AGM; and other news
- TREATMENTS Multi-needle prostate biopsy - could it lead to cancer spread?
- CONSUMER PROTECTION Machines that can talk to your body - Les Rose investigates claims made for bio-resonance devices
- ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES John Dwyer reports from Australia on opposing extreme chiropractic
- EVIDENCE-BASED DENTISTRY The Advertising Standards Agency shows its teeth!
- BOOK REVIEW The Importance of Being Ernst, by Nick Ross
- LAST WORD David Bender reflects on triumphs of design over utility in labelling
Join us by becoming a member of HealthWatch and a supporter of science and integrity in healthcare.
HealthWatch was fighting ‘fake news’ in relation to health before the term was invented. As the converse of evidence-based medicine, it is the focus of HealthWatch's existence.
Earlier this year, a team at MIT published a report that revealed that false news actually travels faster than truth online.
Beyond acknowledging that we have a problem, can we do anything to correct it?
Following in the footsteps of previous popular HealthWatch debates, we have organised a meeting for 19.00 on Thursday, 4 October 2018 to discuss ways to combat mis- and dis-information. (We are consigning ‘fake’ to Trump and Twitter.)
It will be led by two researchers with a special interest in the subject:
Geoff Walton, from Manchester Metropolitan University has studied how young how people form judgements on online information, and
Jens Koed Madsen from the University of Oxford, who is passionate about the potentially harmful effects of misinformation and is trying to model how we might intervene to modify such information or beliefs.
They will be joined by award-winning medical journalist and GP, Faye Kirkland.
We also hope to invite authors, researchers and representatives of institutions concerned with the issues involved to come to offer informed contributions from the floor.
Chair: Susan Bewley, Professor of Women's Health, King's College London, Chair of HealthWatch
Attendance, at the lecture theatre, of King’s College (Franklin Wilkins building) in Stamford Street, near Waterloo, is free and open to all: Book your place now (free)
|Date||Thursday 4 October 2018|
19:00 to 20:45 BST
Doors open at 18:30
King’s College London, Waterloo Campus, Room B5, Franklin-Wilkins Building, Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH
See map below
Date: Wednesday 31 October 2018
Time: 19:00 (drinks reception from 18.30 — see below for full agenda)
Sarah Wollaston is that rare politician: a scientifically literate and sceptical MP. She consistently uses her background as hospital doctor, GP and forensic examiner for the police, to bring a logical and dispassionate analysis to social problems and affairs of state.
Even more precious, she will change her mind in the face of new, sound evidence. Her track record includes advising on the ill-considered Saatchi Bill, supporting minimum-unit pricing for alcohol, chairing the government’s Health Select Committee, and defending patients’ confidential information. She has always maintained the highest level of personal integrity. HealthWatch applauds her.
Sarah will give a talk entitled, From GP to MP: How to Lose Friends but try to Influence People
18:30 Reception for the AGM and Award ceremony.
19:00 Annual General meeting of HealthWatch (only members of HealthWatch may vote, but non-members are welcome to attend).
19:30 Presentation of awards to the winners of the 2018 Student Prize competition for critical analysis of clinical research protocols.
19:40 Presentation of the 2018 HealthWatch Award to Dr Sarah Wollaston (see above).
20:30 Buffet dinner (£45.00 per person). To order your buffet dinner, please click here Book buffet dinner
Nominations for Committee
Our constitution requires that nominations for officers and members of the committee should be submitted not less than 28 days before the AGM.
Any member of HealthWatch can nominate an officer or ordinary member for the committee. Nominations should be seconded by another member, accompanied by a letter from the person nominated to state s/he accepts, and sent to the Secretary, Prof David Bender or by post to 8 Eagle Close, AMERSHAM HP6 6TD before 3rd October.
Motions for discussion
Motions for discussion at the AGM should be sent to the Secretary, Prof David Bender or by post to 8 Eagle Close, AMERSHAM HP6 6TD before 3rd October.
The deadline for the Summer issue of the HealthWatch Newsletter will soon be here and we're already collecting articles and letters from our members, friends, supporters and interested readers.
The HealthWatch Newsletter in pdf format is openly accessible online immediately on publication so that our contributors can benefit from as wide an audience as possible, and may share their work freely.
For our Summer issue we are looking for topical and thought-provoking material from new contributors. Opinions, book reviews, letters commenting on current issues of interest are also welcomed for consideration.
Please send your articles by 1st July for target publication date around August. For more information and details of how to submit please see our Information for Authors page.
A letter to The Times signed by 15 HealthWatch experts and supporters sparked a deluge of media coverage when it urged women offered catch-up after missed breast screening invitations to “look this gift horse in the mouth”.
HealthWatch chair, Susan Bewley, professor of women’s health at King’s College London, penned the letter on learning the news that an estimated 450,000 women aged 68-70 had not been invited to routine NHS mammography screenings because of an IT failure dating back to 2009. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, had claimed that between 135 and 270 women might have had their lives shortened as a result.
These figures, based on statistical modelling, were disputed by many in the medical and statistical community, and Bewley’s letter quickly gathered signatories from among HealthWatch supporters including Michael Baum, who as professor emeritus of surgery at University College London was an architect of the original breast screening programme in the 1980s.
"Breast cancer screening mostly causes more unintended harm than good"
The letter, headed “Screening ‘flaw’”, appeared on Saturday 5th May and was accompanied by a page 9 article by Chris Smyth, The Times’ Health Editor, titled “Women are urged to avoid catch-up breast screening”. It quoted from Bewley’s letter, “The breast screening programme mostly causes more unintended harm than good, which is slowly being recognised internationally. Many women and doctors now avoid breast screening because it has no impact on all-cause death”.
Here is a list of just some of the media coverage that resulted:
- BBC News (5th May): “Breast cancer screening programme 'does more harm than good'” quoted from the letter, saying “The claims of lives saved because of breast screening are counteracted by deaths resulting from interventions, the medics said. And the most dangerous and advanced cancers are not prevented by screening programmes”.
- BBC Radio 4 News programme (5th May, 6:00am, 6:25mins in, and again at 13:00) reported the Times letter and the disadvantages of breast screening.
- Dr Margaret McCartney, HealthWatch patron and our 2008 HealthWatch Award winner, joined Susan Bewley and broadcaster Nick Ross, HealthWatch’s president, in a further letter published in the Guardian, 7th May: “Impact of mass breast cancer screening has been overrated” which called on Public Health England to “publish its modelled estimates so scientists and statisticians can check them. In the absence of good evidence it was disgraceful to suggest women died needlessly.”
- Margaret McCartney wrote in the BMJ on 14th May (BMJ 2018;361:k2055) “Can we now talk openly about the risks of screening?” criticising the government’s plan to extend the screening age range in a massive clinical trial without participants’ consent.
Other publications home and abroad took apart the Department of Health’s wobbly maths.
- Tim Harford, our 2012 HealthWatch award winner, covered the issue in his BBC Radio programme “More or Less” (4th May), interviewing Karsten Jorgensen about screening research that shows doubtful benefits, and later wrote in the Financial Times (11th May): “Breast cancer scare recalls the value of collecting evidence” of the “widespread indifference of a howling media to the evidence that such screening is of doubtful benefit anyway”.
- David Spiegelhalter, statistician of the Winton Centre in Cambridge, wrote (2nd May): “Have ‘up to 270 women died’ by missing a breast screening appointment letter?” concluding, that 800 may have avoided harm by not being screened.
- The Guardian (4th May): “Breast cancer screening scandal must prompt review of mammograms” by GP Kailash Chand.
- Nigel Hawkes in the BMJ, 8th May (2018;361:k2036): Breast cancer screening error: fatal mistake or lucky escape?
- Lown Institute: “Slow progress in reducing breast cancer overscreening”
- HealthNewsReview.org (7th May): “Despite screaming headlines, England’s breast cancer screening computer glitch didn’t kill anyone”
- And the ability of the NHS to cope with the demand for catch-up screening was called into question when the Society of Radiographers announced on 14th May “Breast screening workforce will not be able to cope with backlog following crisis, unless urgenly reinforced”.
- And finally … Private Eye, in its “Medicine Balls” column this week, noted that while medical negligence lawyers are licking their lips, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to prove a life had been shortened. On the contrary, “By opting out of screening, a women will lower her risk of being labelled and treated for early breast cancer with no benefit to her quality of life or life expectancy.”
HealthWatch has been raising concerns about breast cancer screening and its shaky evidence base since 2001, and continues to work to raise awareness of the risks and promote correct information to doctors and the public to enable informed choice.