Read the latest HealthWatch newsletter:  Issue 110, Autumn 2019

This year’s top scorer in the HealthWatch Student Prize was one of last year’s runners-up. Nicholas Heng, who has just qualified in medicine at the University of Dundee, used his experience in our 2018 competition to hone his evidence-spotting skills and went on to scoop a cheque for £500 in this year's. First prize in the Nursing category went to Sylvestor Odame-Amoabeng, a BSc adult nursing student at Kings College London. While Nicholas' duties as a new doctor meant he could not collect his prize in person, Sylvester and the runners up received theirs from HealthWatch's president, the broadcaster and author Nick Ross, at this year’s HealthWatch Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 30th October at the Medical Society of London.

The 2019 winners are:

First Prize (£500) for Students of Medicine and Dentistry

Nicholas Heng, a student of medicine at the University of Dundee, Scotland

"I am extremely honoured to be awarded the 1st prize this year! Taking part in the competition has been immensely rewarding, pushing me to learn how to develop and apply my skills of critical appraisal.”

First prize (£500) for Students of Nursing, Midwifery, and Professions Allied to Medicine

Sylvester Odame-Amoabeng, student of BSc Adult Nursing at King’s College London

"I jumped at this opportunity to do some real critical appraisal of clinical research protocols right after a module in Evidence-Based Practice! I belong to a faculty where clinical research is a big driver, so this competition has key relevance not only to students but to any clinical researcher."

Runners-up (£100 each)

Robert Grant, student of medicine at the University of Leicester

“I see critical appraisal as an essential skill. The competition was excellent, great practice! I would recommend it.”

Pavithran Maniam, student of medicine at the University of Dundee

“I would love to conduct groundbreaking clinical and molecular research.”

Nader Raafat, student of medicine at the University of Oxford

“I’ve been impressed with my university course’s emphasis on critical appraisal of research. I hope one day to be able to bring my knowledge back to my home country of Egypt.”

Charles Southey, was a student of medicine at Kings College London, now a Foundation Year 1 doctor

“I am getting my peers involved in critical appraisals and quality improvement projects.”

This year's talented students shared a photo-opportunity with the investigative journalist, Dr Faye Kirkland, who received the 2019 HealthWatch Award which each year recognises an individual who has helped protect the integrity of science or to aid public understanding of health issues. Faye Kirkland went from being a practising GP to investigating healthcare scandals as a journalist for national media including the BBC and the Guardian. Accepting the 2019 award in front of a packed room she said, “Investigative journalism has taken me to places I never imagined, secret meetings, being given leaked documents and holding power to account. Continuing to be a doctor is a privilege but helping to create change on a national level can be an even greater one.”

Like Dr Kirkland, we fully expect that the growing number of young HealthWatch Student Prize winners will also use their evidence-spotting skills to make positive impact on healthcare and understanding of science in the years to come.

Student2019

Left to right: Nader Raafat, Robert Grant, Sylvester Odame-Amoabeng, Faye Kirkland, Charles Southey

Since 2002, HealthWatch's annual Student Prize competition has been giving trainee healthcare professionals the chance to showcase their evidence detection skills. To enter, the students have to scrutinise four pre-supplied research protocols (a protocol is a "recipe" for how to conduct a study to answer a particular scientific question). Hidden in each protocol are scientific, methodological and ethical flaws, which the students need to identify in a short essay. The competition opens each spring and welcomes entries from all medical, dental, nursing and midwifery students, and students of professions allied to medicine. Winners receive a cheque for £500, and runners-up receive £100 each, thanks to generous sponsorship from the Royal College of Physicians. A list of student prize winners from this and previous years can be found here. 

The Autumn 2019 issue of the HealthWatch Newsletter is now online! With 10 crisp new pages of features and news.

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.

Inside number 110:

We thank the contributors of this latest issue. Find past issues here. If you'd like to write for upcoming issues of the HealthWatch Newsletter, find out more here.

Join us by becoming a member of HealthWatch and a supporter of science and integrity in healthcare.

Today, HealthWatch publishes the report of its June symposium on devices — see below.

The committee now has to decide how to take this forward. We need the ‘many eyes’ and wisdom of our members to determine the strategy we can reasonably take forward.

06 SeptemberThe symposium was built on an excellent background paper commissioned from Till Brucker, and many congratulations are due to John Kirwan and team for steering and reporting on this pioneering event. It brought many diverse and expert stakeholders together to listen, think and talk about evidence and healthcare, innovations and risks, outcomes and regulation. Whether you attended or not, you will be stimulated and will learn a lot. At our next trustees meeting we will be pulling together a vision for the future and actions we (or others) can make.

Please do take the time to read the reports, maybe with a cup of tea, and then respond by Friday 6th September.

Thanks in advance.

Susan Bewley

Chair of Trustees

 

To read the report, including the background report, symposium presentations and reports on the discussions, and to provide your views on how HealthWatch should proceed, please click here.

 

 

We are looking forward to welcoming HealthWatch members, interested media, and any member of the public with an interest in integrity in healthcare, to HealthWatch’s Annual General Meeting 2019 in London.

As usual, attendance at the HealthWatch AGM and presentations is free and open to all. If you would like to stay for the dinner, however, this must be pre-booked and paid for in advance, see the agenda below. While all are welcome to attend the AGM, only members may vote.

Date: Tuesday 29 October 2019

Time: 19:00 (drinks reception from 18.30 — see below for full agenda)

Location: The Medical Society of London, Lettsom House, 11 Chandos Street, Cavendish Square, LONDON W1G 9EB (see map)

The 2019 HealthWatch Award will be presented to Dr Faye Kirkland

In four years, the GP and investigative journalist Faye Kirkland progressed from graduating with a diploma in journalism to being awarded best newcomer from the Association of British Science Writers (2016) to Freelance of the Year from the Medical Journalists’ Association (2018), while still working as a GP.

Her journalism is widely recognised to combine a respect for scientific evidence and statistics with the interviewing skills of a GP.

She has done exclusive investigations for Panorama, BBC News, BBC Breakfast, Victoria Derbyshire programme, BBC Radio 4, BBC 5 Live, and for the Guardian. Her reporting has led to changes in clinical practice, sparked national and local inquiries and prompted parliamentary questions in The House.

Her peers in the media praise her for 'her dedicated attention to detail; her ability to put interviewees from all walks of life at their ease, and her boundless energy in the pursuit of important medical stories in the public interest.'

Agenda

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 2019 Student Prize competition for critical analysis of clinical research protocols.

19:40 Presentation of the 2019 HealthWatch Award to Dr Faye Kirkland (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 30 September.

Motions for discussion

Changes to the Constitution of HealthWatch

The committee is proposing two changes to the constitution, as follows:

1) Paragraph 3d reads as follows: “Corporate Membership: Corporate membership shall be open to companies and professional bodies, provided that they satisfy the Committee of HealthWatch and that they are interested in promoting the aims and interests of HealthWatch. Subscription fees paid by Corporate members will be subject to negotiation with the Executive Committee of HealthWatch.”

It is proposed to delete this paragraph. HealthWatch has never had any corporate members, and we prize our independence, so would not wish to attract corporate members.

2) Paragraph 6b reads as follows: “The Committee shall consist of the officers of HealthWatch and eight other members elected from the ordinary membership.”

It is proposed to change this to read “between eight and twelve other members”, so as to permit us to recruit committee members (Trustees of the Charity) who have expertise lacking among other committee members (eg, we currently have no Trustee with medico-legal expertise).

Motions to be proposed 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 30 September.

The Summer 2019 issue of the HealthWatch Newsletter is now online here! After a short break, this latest newsletter is a full 18 pages of news, feature articles and meeting reports.

And look out next week for more news, from HealthWatch Symposium 2019: Evidence, Healthcare and Medical Devices & Implants, to be held on Monday 17th June. A stellar line-up including Prof Carl Henegan, Dr Deborah Cohen and Prof Peter McCulloch will be with us to bring some clarity of thinking to this painful area of legislation. Report and an important new background paper will be online in the coming days.

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.

Inside number 109:

Join us by becoming a member of HealthWatch and a supporter of science and integrity in healthcare.

Symposium 17 JuneAs a member of HealthWatch you believe in evidence-based healthcare. But what evidence do we need to justify the introduction of new medical devices or implants? How can we make sure it is obtained and disseminated? How should the system be regulated?

Recent publicity has made it clear that implants such as surgical mesh and silicone breast implants are poorly evidenced and probably poorly regulated. How should HealthWatch respond? Where should we be pressing for action?

These are the topics of our free HealthWatch Symposium on 17th June 2019 in central London: Evidence, Healthcare and Medical Devices & Implants.

We have some top-flight invited speakers, but most of the afternoon will be based on group discussions – and we would like many members of HealthWatch to be part of those discussions.

Could you join us for this event, and help HealthWatch focus its attention where it will be most effective?

To find out more and register for the symposium, read our full announcement and programme.

John Kirwan

Symposium Coordinator

Free

Registration now closed
Registration for the symposium is now closed, but if you have a special interest please contact the symposium coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The HealthWatch Symposium 2019: Evidence, Healthcare and Medical Devices & Implants is now open to members and student members!

It takes place on Monday 17 June 2019 from 1pm to 4.30pm at St Luke's Community Centre in central London. Giving presentations, we have:

  • Prof Carl Heneghan, professor of Evidence-Based Medicine and Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Oxford University, Oxford
  • Deborah Cohen, investigative Journalist, British Medical Journal and BBC, London
  • Prof Peter McCulloch, professor of Surgical Science and Practice and Chair of the IDEAL Collaboration, Oxford University, Oxford

The aim of the symposium is to clarify the current issues facing evidence based healthcare in the field of implants and medical devices and to identify areas where organisations (including HealthWatch) might most productively concentrate their efforts.

The latest version of the (still developing) programme is available on the HealthWatch web site here and you can jump straight to registration at Eventbrite here - click on Register then Checkout.

Click here for details and registration

We have an impressive set of introductory speakers and of discussion group participants, and the symposium offers us a real opportunity to bring some clarity of thinking to a difficult area.

Your input to the process, through full participation in the discussion groups and feedback, means you will be an active participant in the process, not just a passive audience member.

We are particularly keen that student members take up some of our places, and can offer up to £30 support towards travel costs for those from outside London who need it.

There are only 40 places available (over and above our invited speakers and discussants), so please register soon if you want to secure a place.

John Kirwan

Symposium Coordinator

Thousands of unnecessary mastectomies may have resulted among women persuaded to take part in the government’s AgeX study, claims a report by HealthWatch experts published today in the British Medical Journal. The study, announced as “the biggest randomized controlled trial in history”, has already invited over a million women to undergo mammographic screening for breast cancer without first checking they understand the test could harm as well as benefit.

Findings of an eight-year investigation into AgeX by HealthWatch experts and concerned citizens, are published today in an analysis in the British Medical Journal (cite: BMJ 2019;364:l1293 doi:10.1136/bmj.l1293. A full text version can be accessed here). It describes a poorly designed and scrutinized trial which exposes women to foreseeable harm while being unlikely to produce useful data. AgeX randomizes women to receive an extra mammogram on either side of the currently offered 50-70 age range in order to assess the effect on breast cancer mortality. It began in 2009 with an initial target of 1.1 million women. It could continue beyond 2026. Since its inception, evidence has accumulated that mass mammographic screening of healthy women offers little or no benefit, and has substantial harms. But instead of holding back, the trial has only grown in size to an estimated 6 million. Although protests led to better leaflets, women continue to be invited without checks that they understand the risks and that they are taking part in research.

The HealthWatch investigation into AgeX was triggered in 2011 when medical writer Mitzi Blennerhassett deduced from some small print that a screening invitation she received at age 72 was not routine but part of a clinical trial. Knowing that international ethical standards for human experiments say that participants must be told that they are in a trial and given details of benefits and harms in language they can understand, she decided to find out more. Her letters to NHS departments received either cursory replies or contradictory information. Over the following years she was joined by Susan Bewley (emeritus professor of obstetrics and women’s health, Kings College London, and HealthWatch trustee) and Mandy Payne (freelance editor of the HealthWatch Newsletter). They found:

  • It took three freedom of information requests to obtain the study protocol that was barely 7 pages long*.
  • The triallists had specified from the outset that informed consent would not be sought, i.e., there would be no explicit check that women presenting for screening fully understood the risks.
  • The Principal Investigator of the study is not a scientist or doctor, but has a degree in Ancient History and Classical Civilisation and her medical doctorate and professorship are both honorary.
  • The proposed trial was implemented without having been properly peer-reviewed. Instead of receiving independent academic and scientific scrutiny it was passed by an internal Department of Health committee.
  • No body appears to admit full responsibility for the scientific content and oversight of the trial. In responses to letters inquiring on this question, it seems to be passed around between the AgeX investigators, the sponsor (Oxford University), and the Research Ethics Committee (REC).

How can mammograms harm women? Many “positive” screens result from discovery of tiny, microscopic tumours that will never grow, or grow so slowly that they would not have gone on to harm a woman in her lifetime. However, once detected, this is followed by surgery or radiation. The tests and diagnoses cause fear and anxiety. Cancer treatments are highly toxic, and may cause pain, disfigurement and even trigger new cancers. Some women are harmed who would have remained healthy but for the screening. At best, the woman survives a frightening diagnosis and “lives with cancer” for the rest of her life. Screening has not been shown to save lives when all-cause mortality is considered, and it increases the chance of mastectomy. It has not been shown to reduce the most advanced and aggressive cancers. Fortunately, today’s treatments for breast cancer are much better than forty years ago, and most women diagnosed via symptoms have effective treatment.

Lead author Susan Bewley says “Good researchers would welcome openness and scrutiny. We call on scientists and researchers worldwide to examine the detail and judge the value of this enormous trial that was not competitively funded, nor properly peer reviewed, which has a changing rationale, protocol and endpoints, and which does not seek explicit informed consent from the ever-growing number of women recruited.”

Commenting on the BMJ paper, leading breast cancer surgeon and researcher Professor Michael Baum, who was one of the original architects of the breast screening programme, but who now believes it does more harm than good, said “Whilst the world’s scientific community has woken up to the fact that screening for breast cancer does not save lives or for that matter save breasts, the monstrous AgeX trial is recruiting over 6,000,000 women to an RCT to extend the age group for screening to 47-79. The cost to the exchequer is huge, never mind the cost of managing the physical and psychological outcomes of over-diagnosed cases. This paper by Bewley, Blennerhassett and Payne is timely and AgeX should be shut down. The hubris of the non-clinical epidemiologists running this study, who never have to look a woman in the eye after a ‘positive’ mammogram, is unspeakable.”

The authors of the BMJ paper call for an inquiry into the research governance gaps that this investigation has exposed. Further information on the trial, including documents obtained as a result of freedom of information requests, are now available on the HealthWatch website in a detailed update.

Important note:

HealthWatch, in common with many international experts, believes the evidence does not support benefit of mass mammographic screening of symptom-free average-risk women. However, women at high risk, e.g. with a family history of breast cancer, DO benefit from close monitoring. Any women with breast symptoms should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Some key facts and numbers:

  • 2009 – the trial of extending the age range for breast screening in England begins
  • 2011 – the existence of the trial of extending the age range for breast screening in England is announced publicly, in response to a public letter in BMJ from Susan Bewley to the Cancer ‘tsar’ Mike Richards
  • 2016 – the protocol for the AgeX trial is finally made freely available online for the general public – by now it is in at least its 4th iteration in operation
  • 50-70 – the standard age range offered breast screening currently by NHS
  • 47-49, and 71-79 – extra age ranges in AgeX
  • 7 – the number of pages in the original AgeX trial protocol
  • 2 – the number of scientific references in the original AgeX trial protocol
  • 3 – the number of freedom of information requests made before the original protocol was released to HealthWatch investigators, in 2014
  • 1 million – the original target for the number of women to be included in the study
  • 6 million – the current new target number of individual women proposed to be included in the study (to include participants and unscreened controls)
  • 1 million – the number of women who had, by end of 2016, received an extra mammogram as part of AgeX
  • 1 in 10 – the chance of a woman aged 50+, who takes part in the standard breast screening programme over the course of 11 years,** having a false alarm after a mammogram and unnecessarily having additional testing or tissue removed (biopsy)
  • 1 in 200 – the chance of a woman aged 50+, who takes part in the standard breast screening programme over the course of 11 years,** unnecessarily having partial or complete removal of a breast
  • 22 in 1000 – the risk of dying of cancer for a woman aged 50+ over the course of 11 years regardless of whether or not she attends standard breast screening**

*A protocol is the detailed “recipe” for how a clinical trial is conducted - protocols are commonly 50-200 pages of dense and highly detailed text that has been written and checked many times. The NHS Health Research Authority website encourages researchers to make protocols publicly available in the interests of transparency https://www.hra.nhs.uk/planning-and-improving-research/research-planning/protocol/

**https://www.harding-center.mpg.de/en/fact-boxes/early-detection-of-cancer/breast-cancer-early-detection

17 JuneThe 2019 annual HealthWatch symposium is on its way. The topic will be "Evidence, healthcare and medical devices" as the issue of evidence for implants and devices is an important area, poorly understood and regulated. Last year the Committee decided to turn strategic attention to this over the next few years.

The symposium is being coordinated by John Kirwan. We are delighted to be pinning down speakers (inc Carl Henegan who wrote this piece about the vaginal mesh scandal) and workshop subjects.

It will be held on the afternoon of Monday June 17th in London (in an accessible venue near overground and underground).

Further details to follow – but please book the slot in your diaries NOW

Susan Bewley

Chair of Trustees, HealthWatch

The 2019 HealthWatch student prize competition for critical appraisal of clinical research protocols is open! Starting now… you have three months to write, refine and perfect your entry, but don't leave it until the last minute!

Cash prizes

There are two first prizes of £500 each, one for medical and dental students and one for students of nursing, midwifery and professions allied to medicine. Up to five runner-up prizes of £100 will be awarded in each class. Prize winners will be invited to attend the HealthWatch Annual General Meeting in October to receive their prizes.

How to enter

The competition consists of four hypothetical research protocols: your task is to rank the protocols in order from that most likely to provide a reliable answer to the stated aims of the trial to that least likely to do so. You then have to explain your ranking in no more than 600 words.

Please pass on to any students, organisations, colleges, universities, etc you think might be interested.

Your entry must be submitted before 23:59 BST on Tuesday 30 April 2019. Entries received after that time will not be considered. Find out more and enter here. The full terms and conditions, with the competition protocols for you to read, can be found here

Free student membership

Whether you enter the competition or not, if you are a full-time student, please consider taking advantage of our offer of free Student Membership of HealthWatch.

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:

Join us by becoming a member of HealthWatch and a supporter of science and integrity in healthcare.

Free

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)

Details

Date Thursday 4 October 2018
Time

19:00 to 20:45 BST

Doors open at 18:30

Venue

King’s College London, Waterloo Campus, Room B5, Franklin-Wilkins Building, Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH

See map below

Accessibility information

Map

As usual, attendance at the HealthWatch AGM and presentations is free and open to all. If you would like to stay for the dinner, however, this must be pre-booked and paid for in advance, see the agenda below. While all are welcome to attend the AGM, only members may vote.

Date: Wednesday 31 October 2018

Time: 19:00 (drinks reception from 18.30 — see below for full agenda)

Location: The Medical Society of London, Lettsom House, 11 Chandos Street, Cavendish Square, LONDON W1G 9EB (see map)

HealthWatch Award 2018: Dr Sarah Wollaston MP
The 2018 HealthWatch Award will be presented to Dr Sarah Wollaston MP.

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

Agenda

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”.

IMG 20180517 181112HealthWatch 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:

Other publications home and abroad took apart the Department of Health’s wobbly maths.

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.

 

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