Tuesday 30 August 2011

Liam Donaldson up to his old tricks

Liam Donaldson on the way to the bank

Remember Britain's former Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson? Under the last Labour government, this flabby old fear-mongerer epitomised everything that is wrong with the public health crusade. Evidence-free policy making, perpetual scare stories, junk statistics, sucking up to the pharmaceutical industry—Donaldson brought it all to a new level.

In addition to lying through his teeth in his attempts to bring in the smoking ban and minimum pricing of alcohol, Donaldson was consumed with the desire to do battle with a viral pandemic. In the search for his very own Moby Dick, the sweaty surgeon hyped up fears of first SARS, then bird flu and finally swine flu. Thanks to Donaldson, no country overreacted to this scare more than Britain and no country helped the pharmaceutical industry make more money, as I said in a post last year:

Donaldson described swine flu as the "biggest challenge [to the NHS] in a generation" and predicted that a third of the UK population would come down with the virus in the winter. In an act of near-insanity, the British government ordered 110 million doses of the swine flu vaccine Tamiflu, 50 million more than would be needed to treat every man, woman and child in the country. The Department of Health ordered 32 million face masks. The Home Office made plans to dig mass graves.

In the event—despite the coldest winter for 30 years—there were fewer deaths than in the average flu season. The final death toll was 450—0.7% of the 65,000 predicted in Donaldson's worst-case scenario. Of these 450 deaths, only 70 could be solely attributed to swine flu.

The big winners from the swine flu panic were the pharmaceutical companies who managed to offload vast quantities of anti-viral drugs that were not needed and will never be used. There is now a hefty body of evidence that shows that Big Pharma had a disproportionate and malign influence on the World Health Organisation while the 'crisis' unfolded.

Our investigation has identified key scientists involved in WHO pandemic planning who had declarable interests, some of whom are or have been funded by pharmaceutical firms that stood to gain from the guidance they were drafting. Yet these interests have never been publicly disclosed by WHO and, despite repeated requests from the BMJ/The Bureau, WHO has failed to provide any details about whether such conflicts were declared by the relevant experts and what, if anything, was done about them.

"There was no scientific basis for the WHO’s estimate of 2 billion for likely H1N1 cases, and we knew little about the benefits and harms of the vaccination. The WHO maintained this 2 billion estimate even after the winter season in Australia and New Zealand showed that only about one to two out of 1000 people were infected. Last but not least, it changed the very definition of a pandemic.”

The world was suckered by the WHO and the WHO was—to put it most charitably—suckered by Big Pharma. No country was conned more than Britain and at the heart of the British scare was Liam Donaldson. Having coaxed the government into wasting millions of pounds on unnecessary drugs, Donaldson retired last year, with the risible promise to come back to the job if swine flu re-emerged as the plague he always claimed it would be. It hasn't, of course, so has the discredited quack drifted into ignoble retirement?

Of course not...

Liam Donaldson Takes Up Role With Lobbying Firm APCO

The former chief medical officer for England has agreed to advise a global lobbying firm with a string of UK healthcare clients.

In the new role, Donaldson will provide strategic advice for clients such as the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

As Paul Flynn says, "the wages of error are bounteous". But, as if that wasn't enough, he's also got himself a job at the WHO.

WHO Director-General names Sir Liam Donaldson envoy for patient safety

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has named Professor Sir Liam Donaldson as WHO Envoy for Patient Safety. In this role, Sir Liam, who served as England's Chief Medical Officer between 1998 and 2010, will help the Organization promote patient safety as a global public health priority.

What a cosy little club the WHO is. And Donaldson is showing no sign of toning down the scare-mongering in his new role.

"If you were admitted to hospital tomorrow in any country... your chances of being subjected to an error in your care would be something like 1 in 10. Your chances of dying due to an error in health care would be 1 in 300," Liam Donaldson, the WHO's newly appointed envoy for patient safety, told a news briefing.

This little statistic is a classic Donaldsonism, as Emergency Physicians Monthly has pointed out:

This guy was formerly England’s Chief Medical Officer for twelve years. England’s own parliament put out a report of England’s Health Committee in 2009 – while Donaldson was the CMO - showing that “around 3,500″ medical errors in the NHS each year involve the death of the patient.

Between 2009 and 2010, there were 14.5 million hospital admissions in England – at least according to the NHS’s “Hospital Episode Statistics” online. With one in 300 dying from an “error in health care” (according to Dr. Donaldson), then a total of roughly 48,300 patients in England would have died at the hands of us careless, lackadaisical, downright dangerous medical providers.

Same calendar year, but there is a big discrepancy between 3,500 patient deaths cited in the House of Commons report and 48,300 deaths cited by Professor Sir Liam Donaldson.

That discrepancy leaves me with three possible explanations.

First possibility: Those who created the statistics used in the Sixth Report of the Health Committee for the House of Commons were a bunch of incompetents and should all be beheaded. Remember, the report was created during Sir Liam Donaldson’s tenure as England’s Chief Medical Officer, so he is not without blame if this scenario holds true.

Second possibility: There was a MI5 cover up of nearly 45,000 deaths due to medical errors in England in 2009. Someone call Scotland Yard … and Geraldo Rivera.

Third possibility: Sir Liam Donaldson is blowing bubbles out his bum when citing statistics on behalf of the World Health Organization.

Liam Donaldson scaring the wits out of people with made-up statistics to enhance his own power and prestige? Nothing changes.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Good work, my contempt for the man knows no bounds.

Twenty_Rothmans said...

I'd rather take Mystic Meg's predictions than Liam Donaldson's.

Self-aggrandizing bully, no wonder he's so popular with pharmaceutical companies. But we've seen that from quacks before - remember aids, that was going to wipe all of us out, right kids?

Anonymous said...

Is this off topic? I think not.

We are actually governed by THE REGULATIONS. An Act of Parliament is useless without the regulations.

Not a lot of people know this.

Much as we detest the smoking ban, not a lot can be attained unless 'the regulations' are be changed. However, what is of the greatest importance, as regards the ban, is the definition of 'private' or 'public' places. The creation of a law, as a consequence of the smoking ban, that private places can become public places, slipped through unobserved in the Health Act which introduced the ban. Unobserved, this Act introduced the idea that there is no such thing as 'private' property.

Did MPs who voted for the ban understand this? I doubt it.

Bucko said...

Swine flu is coming back. Apparently.
It was on drivetime radio yesterday that some new, mutated stain was starting to do the rounds.

Be prepared for a whole new scare to start breaking soon.

(Or was it bird flu? It was definately some edible farm animal related flu anyway)

Anonymous said...

Basic lack of numeracy among the authors of this article.
Donaldson clearly uses two figures (1 in 10) and - if this happens - (1 in 300). Therefore you need to multiply them together to get risk of dying if admitted. Taking into account rounding to 1 in 10 and to 1 in 300, 3,500 would be entirely constitent with what Donaldson said.

Hope this helps.