Read the latest HealthWatch newsletter:  Newsletter 116, Summer 2021

Notice is hereby given that the 2021 Annual General Meeting of HealthWatch will be held on:

Wednesday 06 October 2021 at 19:00

Note: we are using a new venue this year.

Venue: The Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE, in the Max Rayne Auditorium

The nearest Underground stations are Bond Street and Oxford Circus — see here for further travel details — and here for accessibility information.

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 below.

While all are welcome to attend the AGM, only members may vote.

2021 HealthWatch Award

This will be presented to Prof Christina Pagel, Professor of Operational Research, UCL:

Professor Pagel had a distinguished career as a mathematician in space physics before taking up an interest in operational research. She is Professor of Operational Research at UCL and director of the Clinical Operational Research Unit there.

In her own words, Prof Pagel’s "main interest is in using information to help people within the health service make better decisions" and she regularly appears on television and radio and in the press, giving clear explanations of complex ideas about medical matters, especially those related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agenda

18:30 Registration in the Auchi Foyer.

19:00 Annual General meeting of HealthWatch (only members of HealthWatch may vote).

19:30 Presentation of awards to the winners of the 2021 Student Prize competition for critical analysis of clinical research protocols.

19:40 Presentation of the 2021 HealthWatch Award to Prof Christina Pagel (see above). This will be followed by a talk by Prof Pagel.

20:30 Buffet dinner (£45.00 per person) in the Max Rayne Foyer. 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 an email from the person nominated to state s/he accepts, and sent to the Secretary, Roger Fisken before Wednesday 08 September.

Motions to be proposed for discussion

Motions for discussion at the AGM should be sent to the Secretary, Roger Fisken before Wednesday 08 September.

Our latest issue features original articles as well as news about our charity's mission to promote evidence and integrity in health care.

The HealthWatch Newsletter remains free to view, download and share. HealthWatch members will shortly receive their personal printed copy of the newsletter if they have opted to do so. Links to the full newsletter and individual articles are below, or access a printable pdf format here.

Inside Newsletter 116

Published August 2021

  • NEWS Celebrating HealthWatch’s 30th birthday with Prof David Spiegelhalter; student prize; an appearance in Private Eye; and more
  • ETHICS Why alternative medicine is not the way to meet women’s healthcare needs, by Arianne Shahvisi
  • CONSUMER PROTECTIONThe MHRA responds to HealthWatch’s questions on bioresonance devices
  • RESEARCH INTEGRITYStephen Bradley reviews progress in two years since publication of the Declaration to Improve Health Research
  • BOOK REVIEW Transparency, Power and Influence in the Pharmaceutical Industry, reviewed by Till Bruckner

We thank the contributors of this latest issue. Find past issues here. If you'd like to write an article for an upcoming issue 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.

The pandemic challenged students in many ways in the last 12 months, but it didn’t stop them sending some absolutely stunning entries to our annual HealthWatch Student Prize competition for the critical appraisal of clinical trial protocols.

We were hugely impressed this year by a mature student who found the time to research and write a superb first prize-winning entry alongside full-time studies, helping on a farm, parenting three children, and competing in eventing. Jenny Jones, now beginning her third year studying Midwifery at Bangor University, said: “The different proposals were interesting to read, and I learned a lot about how a research proposal should be formed.” Inspired to midwifery by the excellent care she had received herself, she says: “I hope to make a positive impact on the lives of other women going through pregnancy and childbirth; both through direct clinical practice, and later on in research. I would one day like to conduct research on how the environment and mental state affects perception of pain during childbirth.” Jenny, who is originally from Halifax in Yorkshire but now lives in Aberavon in North Wales, receives a cheque for £500 as first prize in the Nursing, Midwifery and Professions Allied to Medicine category. She is full of praise for her supportive Year 2 lecturer, Judith Fields, who introduced her to the competition, and we hope that other academic tutors will take her lead and give their students the opportunity to take part.

In the Medical and Dental category the £500 first-prize cheque goes to Will Duggleby, who has just graduated from the University of Cambridge clinical medicine course. Will, of Stroud in Gloucestershire, came across our competition online. He says: “I think that Doctors should be capable scientists as well as clinicians and the competition seemed to be something which would put my own abilities to the test!” He hopes to join the IMT (Internal Medicine Training) programme after Foundation, before deciding where to specialise. We wish him well.

Runners up

For Matthew Kingham, this was the second time he'd entered the competition. He achieved a Highly Commended certificate last year, but this time he collected a runners-up cheque for £100. Now in his third year of Medicine at King’s College London, he said, ‘It has been a strange academic year with all the challenges of the pandemic, however re-applying for this competition was an enjoyable and educational experience. I am still very keen on pursuing a career in surgery, however, I am also considering ENT as another option aside from neurosurgery. My interest in the clinical neurosciences has not wavered, however!’

Another Londoner in his third year at Kings is medical student Jack Coumbe. Jack is interested in a career in academic medicine so he valued the opportunity to focus on evidence-based medicine for his prize. He looks forward to applying for academic foundation programmes when he graduates, “the experience given by this competition has motivated me to continue my interest in clinical trials and academia.”

From further afield comes runner-up Shun Qi Yong, originally from Selangor, Malaysia, and now a fourth year medic at Glasgow University. Shun Qi says she found the process of writing more challenging than initially expected but the effort gave her an appreciation for the many considerations in devising a good protocol. She stays grounded by “reading about the world outside of medicine during my spare time!”

A further runner-up cheque is on its way to Catrin Sohrabi, Queen Mary University of London, for her excellent entry in the Nursing, Midwifery and PAM category. Highly Commended certificates have been awarded to medics Conor Hennessy, Oxford University, and Hanna Spielmann, Medical School Hannover.

Testing skills

The HealthWatch Student Prize competition aims to test students’ research skills by inviting them to evaluate four hypothetical research protocols and rank them in order of quality. It opens every year in the Autumn term, with deadline end of April. Entries are invited from two categories: medical and dental students; and students of nursing, midwifery and professions allied to medicine.

In each group there is a first prize of £500 and up to five runner-up prizes of £100. A full list of past winners can be found on our Student Prize page.

Prize winners will be invited to receive their awards in person again this year at the HealthWatch Annual General Meeting in London in October.

We are extremely grateful to the Royal College of Surgeons of England for their generous sponsorship of this year's competition.

All full-time and recently-qualified students in these categories, whether entering the competition or not, can apply for free Student Membership of HealthWatch.

This story has been amended to correct an error in original version. Matthew Kingham was not, as originally written, last year's first prize winner, that was Matthew Choy! Our apologies to both Matthews.

The full recording is now online of one of the world's leading statisticians speaking at HealthWatch's 30th birthday event last week. Professor David Spiegelhalter's talk: "Trustworthy communication of risk and evidence: the battle against naughty numbers in the news” delighted a full house at the Medical Society of London on Tuesday 27th July.

David Spiegelhalter holds the Winton Professorship of the Public Understanding of Risk, at the University of Cambridge, England. He is the joint winner of the 2021 HealthWatch Award, shared with Professor Christina Pagel of University College London, who will receive hers at the HealthWatch AGM in October (date to be confirmed).

The one-hour recording is now on the HealthWatch youtube channel, where you can also find recordings of some of our previous events. A link to his lightly edited transcript is on our Award winners page.

Below see Professor Spieglehalter, with Professor Susan Bewley, chair of HealthWatch, as they cut the 30th birthday cake.

DSpiegelhalter SBewley

27 July

We have a full house at the Medical Society of London for HealthWatch's 30th birthday event tomorrow evening (Tuesday 27th July) but for those who won't be there in person, you can watch the live stream on our youtube channel.

Our special guest speaker – our 2021 joint award winner – is David Spiegelhalter who holds the Winton Professorship of the Public Understanding of Risk, at the University of Cambridge, England. His controversial theme: “Trustworthy communication of risk and evidence: the battle against naughty numbers in the news.”

Please join us for a very special night in our history to hear how one of the world’s leading statisticians sees the figures that will help, for good or ill, to shape our destiny.

Start time: 19:00 BST on Tuesday 27th July 2021.

Light refreshments will be provided for those who attend, but if you are watching the live stream, you'll need to provide your own!

Click on the live stream link now to set a reminder: https://healthwatch-uk.org/birthdayevent.

We look forward to 'seeing' you there!

HealthWatch's 30th birthday event will take place in-person and also live-streamed for remote viewing, on Tuesday July 27th 2021.

Our special guest speaker – our 2021 joint award winner – is David Spiegelhalter who holds the Winton Professorship of the Public Understanding of Risk, at the University of Cambridge, England. His controversial theme: “Trustworthy communication of risk and evidence: the battle against naughty numbers in the news.”

Please join us for a very special night in our history to hear how one of the world’s leading statisticians sees the figures that will help, for good or ill, to shape our destiny.

The live (in-person) event is open to all, including members of the public, is free to attend but entry is strictly ticket-only. Because numbers are limited to 80 guests, please apply for tickets via our Eventbrite page. Tickets will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Start-time: 18:30 for 19:00 start, on Tuesday 27th July 2021. 27 July

Light refreshments will be provided. 

Tickets from: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/naughty-numbers-in-the-news-tickets-158441644223

Venue: The Medical Society of London, Lettsom House, Chandos St, London W1G 9EB

Disabled access: the event is to be on the first floor, reached via a flight of stairs. The Medical Society of London is a grade II listed building and as such, we regret to advise, there is no lift.

And if you cannot attend in person:

  • The event will be live-streamed. Register to watch the live-stream here. There will be no cost for joining the event online.
  • A recording of the event will be uploaded shortly afterwards on the HealthWatch YouTube channel (subscribe now and check out our past events). 

Any questions? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Read the latest issue of the HealthWatch Newsletter online now!

Our latest issue features four original articles as well as news about our charity's mission to promote evidence and integrity in health care.

The HealthWatch Newsletter remains free to view, download and share. HealthWatch members will shortly receive their personal printed copy of the newsletter if they have opted to do so. Links to the full newsletter and individual articles are below, or access a printable pdf format here.

Inside Newsletter 115

Published May 2021

  • NEWS Whistleblower spends over a decade pursuing a retraction; success on concerns over counselling research; webinars and articles; and a new competition
  • NUTRITION Should we fight Covid-19 with fermented foods … or not? David Bender explains
  • PSYCHIATRY Allen Frances on the growing problem of antidepressant overprescription
  • RESEARCH INTEGRITY The dark side of biomedical research illuminated by Geoff Webb
  • DENTISTRY Does your child really need orthodontics? Keith Isaacson says sometimes, they really do

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.

Read the latest issue of the HealthWatch Newsletter online now!

New for 2021: we have given the HealthWatch Newsletter an updated format, with individual articles fully readable and searchable online. This latest issue features seven original articles - including brave exclusives from new contributors - as well as news about our charity's mission to promote evidence and integrity in health care.

The HealthWatch Newsletter remains free to view, download and share. HealthWatch members will shortly receive their personal printed copy of the newsletter if they have opted to do so. Links to the full newsletter and individual articles are below, or access a printable pdf format here.

Inside Newsletter 114

Published January 2021

  • NEWS  Transparency campaign success; challenging the Charities Commission; breast cancer surgery advance; "Pseudoscience kills"; a new sponsor for the HealthWatch Student Prize; and much more
  • INVESTIGATION  The case for a register of doctors' interests: Simon Peck shares his shocking findings in the private healthcare sector
  • HEALTHWATCH AWARDWINNER 2020 Bringing stats to the masses: Jennifer Rogers explains how to make sense of data during a global pandemic
  • REPORT FROM HEALTHWATCH'S CHAIR  HealthWatch Chair Susan Bewley sums up 2020
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENTS  Caroline Struthers' devastating commentary takes the case of ME treatments to explain why it is not only drugs and devices that can harm
  • STUDENTS How Matthew Choy scooped the top prize in last year's HealthWatch Student Prize competition, with some brilliant runner-up entries
  • NUTRITION  The trouble with nutrition research, by David Bender
  • LAST WORD  Caroline Richmond on how Lily the Pink and Dr Crippen made their secret remedies, and a century-old war on quackery

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.

The 2021 HealthWatch student prize competition for critical appraisal of clinical research protocols is open! Since 2002, HealthWatch has presented more than £20,000 in prizes, and this year it could be your turn to win up to £500. Starting now… you have four 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 category. Winners will be invited to attend the HealthWatch Annual General Meeting in October to receive their prizes. If for any reason large gatherings or travel are restricted, the AGM may be held virtually, in which case prize-winners will be invited to attend remotely.

Winners can also add to their CV the honour of having received a national award — which could give the edge in a competitive post-Covid jobs market.

We are extremely grateful to the Royal College of Surgeons of England for their generous sponsorship of this year's competition.

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 share with your fellow students, organisations, colleges, universities.

Your entry must be received by 23:59 BST on Friday 30 April 2021. 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.

At our AGM on 20 October, the HealthWatch Award 2020 was presented to Professor Jennifer Rogers by our President, Nick Ross.

Prof Rogers is Head of Statistical Research and Consultancy, PHASTAR and Vice President (External Affairs) at the Royal Statistical Society.

After accepting, Prof Rogers gave a fascinating talk on the statistics of Covid-19, titled Can’t see the wood for the trees? Making sense of data during a global pandemic.

Watch the presentation and her talk:

Notice is hereby given that the 2020 Annual General Meeting of HealthWatch will be held by Zoom on:

Tuesday 20 October 2020 at 19:00

The Zoom meeting will open at 18:45; log-in / joining details will be circulated nearer the time.

The 2020 HealthWatch Award will be presented to Dr Jennifer Rogers:

Prof. Jennifer Rogers is Head of Statistical Research at PHASTAR, moving in August 2019 from the University of Oxford where she was Director of Statistical Consultancy Services and an Associate Professor in the Department of Statistics. She had previously worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Statistics funded by the National Institute of Health Research. She has a special interest in the development and application of novel statistical methodologies, particularly in medicine. Her main area of expertise is the analysis of recurrent events and her research has recently focussed on developing and implementing appropriate methodology for the analysis of repeat hospitalisations in patients with heart failure but her research has many other applications in medicine such as epilepsy and cancer, but also in retail and engineering. She works alongside other statisticians, clinicians, computer scientists, industry experts and regulators.

In her role at PHASTAR, Jennifer directs the statistical research strategy, helping the company stay at the cutting edge of new methodological advances. She is also the technical lead for the company's statistical consultancy offerings, providing guidance and direction to the group. PHASTAR work with small and large pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies to provide statistical consulting, analysis and reporting, data management and data science services.

Jennifer is a highly active member of the Royal Statistical Society, currently sitting on RSS Council and being the Society's Vice President for External Affairs. She was also previously appointed as the RSS Guy Lecturer for 2014 and was Honorary Officer for Meetings and Conferences, organising the 2015 and 2016 RSS International Conferences. In addition to her involvement with the Royal Statistical Society, Jennifer was the President of the British Science Association Mathematical Sciences Section for 2018.

Jennifer can also regularly be found giving conference presentations and talking all things statistics in schools, theatres and pubs. She is a popular statistics presenter and can often be heard on the Radio or seen on TV screens. She has made a number of appearances on BBC Radio 4's More or Less and appeared on series 42 of BBC Watchdog where she presented their "Best or Worst" segment.

Agenda

19:00 Annual General meeting of HealthWatch (only members of HealthWatch may vote).

19:30 Presentation of awards to the winners of the 2020 Student Prize competition for critical analysis of clinical research protocols.

19:40 Presentation of the 2020 HealthWatch Award to Dr Jennifer Rogers (see above).

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 / email 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 20 September.

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 20 September.

Recruitment into the “largest randomised trial of any treatment ever conducted” has been shut down early, and so quietly that it went unnoticed … almost.

The AgeX trial, run by the UK government, had aimed to “assess the risks and benefits” of offering an extra mammogram to women aged 47-49, and additional screening to women between the ages of 70 and 79. But it has been widely criticized by experts and patient groups over its shaky ethics and poor design. Now, without any fanfare, a statement recently appeared on its website: “Following the suspension of routine breast screening in March 2020 due to COVID, and the expected overload on breast screening services when screening eventually re-starts, the AgeX investigators decided in May 2020 that randomization into AgeX should cease permanently.” The statement was spotted by the BMJ and is reported today.(1)

"Other clinical trials have been paused due to COVID, but AgeX has been stopped completely. Could this be because it is a costly and harmful juggernaut of a trial that was conceived and implemented in haste, has grown out of control, and has now become an embarrassment?" says Susan Bewley, HealthWatch's chair, and lead author of a 2019 BMJ Analysis paper that highlighted flaws in AgeX.(2)

By the time recruitment ended, some 4.4 million women had been randomly allocated to the trial. Half will have been sent an extra screening invitation. These mammograms are likely to have resulted in unnecessary surgery for thousands of women who would have been perfectly healthy but for being signed up for the trial.

Unlike regular clinical trials (which should comply with the Helsinki Agreement for the protection of human subjects in research), AgeX was designed without explicit and informed consent, to get maximum participation. HealthWatch has long argued that it will not result in trustworthy data and must be stopped before even more women are harmed.(3) We have called for women in future to be given decision aids clearly explaining the potential risks to help them decide whether to take up screening or not. 

HealthWatch welcomes the ending of recruitment into the AgeX trial. We even agree with the investigators self-penned eulogy that “the establishment of the AgeX trial has been a remarkable achievement”.  But we would still like answers to questions we have been asking for almost a decade including those on the cost and continuing approval that have not been answered by Matt Hancock, nor Jeremy Hunt before him.  Who is responsible for the science of AgeX? Who has overall responsibility for the trial?  How much has it cost the NHS and “the resource-constrained breast screening clinics throughout England”?  

Data on those women who have already been screened will be electronically linked to their health records throughout the 2020s and beyond. But who will be independent enough to be trusted to analyze the data to ensure that any resulting policy decisions will be based on best evidence?

ENDS

1) Today's BMJ news report by Elisabeth Mahase is at https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3337.full 

2) Our paper on the harms and ethical flaws of AgeX was published in the British Medical Journal 13th April 2019 https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l1293, the full text can be read here: https://www.bmj.com/bmj/section-pdf/995203?path=/bmj/365/8195/Comment.full.pdf#page=5.

3) See for yourself. The full story with links to some of the 100+ pages of documents we obtained via freedom of information requests is here: https://www.healthwatch-uk.org/2-uncategorised/122-age-extension-trial-of-mammography-screening-part-5-april-2019.html

Read the Summer issue of the HealthWatch Newsletter online now! With 11 pages of features and news about our charity's mission to promote evidence and integrity in health care.

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 our Summer 2020 issue:

NEWS  Unreported medical device trials; our take on the Cumberlege Review; and News in Brief

POPULAR HEALTH  Ethics concerns over student research activities, by Shirley Moore

NUTRITION  Adam Daly on why Nutrition needs a re-brand

UNPROVEN TREATMENTS  Bioresonance comes under fire from opposite sides of the globe

BOOK REVIEW  Sex Robots & Vegan Meat, an eye-opening review by Caroline Richmond

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.

On the day that the government announce a relaxation of the 2m social distancing rule in England, HealthWatch has published a new lay summary of the evidence. 

The 2 metre rule seems to have been based on the assumption that SARS-CoV-2 – the virus responsible for the disease COVID-19 – is transmitted mainly via large droplets sneezed or coughed onto other people or surfaces. Increasingly evidence is showing that the virus is also spread via tiny airborne particles that could transmit the infection at distances greater than 2m.

Social distancing alone is not a magic bullet, but is one risk-reducing factor to be used alongside good indoor ventilation, regular and effective hand washing, keeping surfaces clean, wearing face coverings where appropriate, and prompt isolation of infected individuals.

"What is the evidence to support the 2-metre social distancing rule to reduce COVID-19 transmission? – a lay summary" is based on a new evidence review by the team at the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, who created the Oxford COVID-19 Evidence Service to conduct evidence reviews on important questions about the science of the pandemic. Volunteers at HealthWatch are working with them to produce lay summaries of their reviews. Look out for them here.

Read the Spring issue of the HealthWatch Newsletter online now! With 10 pages of features and news about our charity's mission to promote evidence and integrity in health care.

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 our Spring 2020 issue:

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.

 

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