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The College of Medicine is in the pocket of Crapita Capita. Is Graeme Catto selling out?

May 3rd, 2012 · 18 Comments

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The College of Medicine is well known to be the reincarnation of the late unlamented Prince of Wales Foundation for Integrated Health. I labelled it as a Fraud and Delusion, but that was perhaps over-generous. It seems to be morphing into a major operator in the destruction of the National Health Service through its close associations with the private health industry.

Their 2012 Conference was held on 3rd May. It has a mixture of speakers, some quite sound, some outright quacks. It’s a typical bait and switch event. You can judge its quality by the fact that the picture at the top of the page that advertises the conference shows Christine Glover, a homeopathic pharmacist who makes a living by selling sugar pills to sick people (and a Trustee of the College of Medicine).

Her own company’s web site says

"Worried about beating colds and flu this winter? We have several approaches to help you build your immune system."

The approaches are, of course, based on sugar pills. The claim is untrue and dangerous. My name for that is fraud.

glover

When the "College of Medicine" started it was a company, but on January 30th 2012, it was converted to being a charity. But the Trustees of the charity are the same people as the directors of the company. They are all advocates of ineffective quack medicine. The contact is named as Linda Leung, who was Operations Director of the Prince’s Foundation until it closed, and then became Company Secretary for the “College of Medicine”.

The trustees of the charity are the same people who were directors of the company

  • Dr Michael Dixon, general practitioner. Michael Dixon was Medical Director of the Prince’s Foundation until it closed down.
  • Professor George Lewith, is Professor of Health Research in the Complementary Medicine Research Unit, University of Southampton. He was a Foundation Fellow of the Prince’s Foundation until it closed down. Much has been written about him here.
  • Professor David Peters. is Professor of Integrated Healthcare and Clinical Director at the University of Westminster’s School of Integrated Health; He’s famous for allowing dowsing with a pendulum as a method of diagnosis for treatment with unproven herbal medicines,
    He was a Foundation Fellow of the Prince’s Foundation until it closed down.
  • Mrs Christine Glover is a pharmacist who sells homeopathic pills. She was a Foundation Fellow of the Prince’s Foundation until it closed down.

The involvement of Capita

According to their web site

"A Founder of the College of Medicine is Capita."

Still more amazingly, the CEO of the College of Medicine is actually an employee of Capita too.

"Mark Ratnarajah is interim CEO of the College of Medicine as well as Business Director at Capita Health and Wellbeing."

brunjes

That isn’t the end of it. The vice-president of the College of Medicine is Dr Harry Brunjes. There is an article about him in the May 2012 issue of Director Magazine.

It has to be said that he doesn’t sound like a man with much interest in the National Health Service..

Within 9 years of graduating he set up in private practice in Harley Street. Five years later he set up Premier Medical, which, after swallowing a couple of rivals, he sold to Capita for £60 million. He is now recorded in a Companies House document as Dr Henry Otto Brunjes, a director of Capita Health Holdings Limited. This company owns all the shares in Capita Health and Wellbeing Limited, and it is, in turn, owned by Capita Business Services Limited. And they are owned by Capita Holdings Limited. I do hope that this baroquely complicated array of companies with no employees has nothing to do with tax avoidance.

Capita is, of course, a company with a huge interest in the privatisation of health care. It also has a pretty appalling record for ripping off the taxpayer.

It has long been known in Private Eye, as “Crapita” and “the world’s worst outsourcing firm”.

Capita were responsible for of the multimillion pound failed/delayed IT project for the NHS and HMRC. They messed up on staff administration services at Leicester Hospitals NHS Trust and the BBC where staff details were lost.  They failed to provide sufficient computing systems for the Criminal Records Bureau, which caused lengthy delays.  Capita were also involved in the failure of the Individual Learning Accounts following a £60M over-spend. And most recently, they have caused the near collapse of court translation services after their acquisition of Applied Language Services.

With allies like that, perhaps the College of Medicine hardly needs enemies. No doubt Capita will be happy to provide the public with quackery for an enormous fee from the taxpayer.

dixon

One shouldn’t be surprised that the College is involved in Andrew Lansley’s attempts to privatise healthcare. Michael Dixon, Chair of the College of Medicine, also runs the "NHS Alliance", almost the only organisation that supported the NHS Bill. The quackery at his own practice defies belief (some it is described here).

One would have thought that such a close association with a company with huge vested interests would not be compatible with charitable status. I’ve asked the Charity Commission about that. The Charity commission, sadly, makes no judgements about the worthiness of the objects of the charities it endorses. All sorts of dangerous quack organisations are registered charities, like, for example, Yes to Life.

Secrecy at the College of Medicine

One of the big problems about the privatisation of medicine and education is that you can’t use the Freedom of Information Act to discover what they are up to. A few private companies try to abide by that act, despite not being obliged to do so. But the College of Medicine is not one of them.

Capita They refuse to disclose anything about their relationship with Capita. I asked I asked Graeme Catto, who is a friend (despite the fact that I think he’s wrong). I got nothing.

"Critical appraisal" I also asked Catto for the teaching materials used on a course that they ran about "critical appraisal". Any university is obliged, by the decision of the Information Tribunal, to produce such material on request. The College of Medicine refused, point blank. What, one wonders, have they got to hide? Their refusal strikes me as deeply unethical.

The course (costing £100) on Critical Appraisal, ran on February 2nd 2012. The aims are "To develop introductory skills in the critical appraisal of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews (SRs)". That sounds good. Have they had a change of heart about testing treatments?

But, as always, you have to look at who is running the course. Is it perhaps a statistician with expertise in clinical trials? Or is it a clinician with experience in running trials? There are plenty of people with this sort of expertise. But no, It is being run by a pharmacist, Karen Pilkington, from that hotbed of unscientific medicine, the University of Westminster.

Pilkington originally joined the University of Westminster as manager for a 4-year project to review the evidence on complementary therapies (funded by the Department of Health). All of her current activities centre round alternative medicine and most of her publications are in journals that are dedicated to alternative medicine. She teaches "Critical Appraisal" at Westminster too, so I should soon have the teaching materials, despite the College’s attempts to conceal them.

Three people who ought to know better

Ore has to admire, however grudgingly, the way that the quacks who run the College of Medicine have managed to enlist the support of several people who really should know better. I suppose they have been duped by that most irritating characteristic of quacks, the tendency to pretend they have the monopoly on empathetic treatment of patients. We all agree that empathy is good, but every good doctor has it. One problem seems to be that senior medical people are not very good at using Google. They don’t do their homework.

catto

Professor Sir Graeme Catto MD DSc FRCP FMedSci FRSE is president of the College of Medicine. He’s Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Aberdeen. He was President of the General Medical Council from 2002 to 2009, Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of London and Dean of Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ medical school between 2000 and 2005. He’s nice and well-meaning chap, but he doesn’t seem to know much about what’s going on in the College.

kennedy

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy LLD, FBA, FKC, FUCL, Hon.DSc(Glasgow), Hon.FRCP is vice-president of the College. Among many other things he is Emeritus Professor of Health Law, Ethics and Policy at University College London. He was Chair of the Healthcare Commission until 2003, when it merged with other regulators to form the Care Quality Commission. No doubt he can’t be blamed for the recent parlous performence of the CQC.

halligan

Professor Aidan Halligan MA, MD, FRCOG, FFPHM, MRCPI Since March 200y he has been Director of Education at University College London Hospitals. From 2003 until 2005, he was Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, with responsibility for issues of clinical governance, patient safety and quality of care. He’s undoubtedly a well-meaning man, but so focussed on his (excellent) homelessness project that he seems immune to the company he keeps. Perhaps the clue lies in the fact that when I asked him what he thought of Lansely’s health bill, he seemed to quite like it.

It seems to me to be incomprehensible that these three people should be willing to sign a letter in the British Medical Journal in defence of the College, with co-signatories George Lewith (about whom much has been written here) and the homeopath Christine Glover. In so doing, they betray medicine, they betray reason, and most important of all, they betray patients. Perhaps they have spent too much time sitting on very important committees and not enough time with patients.

The stated aims of the College sound good.

"A force that combines scientific knowledge, clinical expertise and the patient’s own perspective. A force that will re-define what good medicine means − renewing the traditional values of service, commitment and compassion and creating a more holistic, patient-centred, preventative approach to healthcare."

But what they propose to do about it is, with a few exceptions, bad. They try to whip up panic by exaggerating the crisis in the NHS. There are problems of course, but they result largely from under-funding (we still spend less on healthcare than most developed countries), and from the progressive involvement of for-profit commercial companies, like Capita. The College has the wrong diagnosis and the wrong solution. How do they propose to take care of an aging population? Self-care and herbal medicines seem to be their solution.

The programme for the College’s workshop shows it was run by herbalist Simon Mills and by Dick Middleton an employee of the giant herbal company, Schwabe. You can see Middleton attempting to defend misleading labelling of herbal products on YouTube, opposed by me.

It seems that the College of Medicine are aiding and abetting the destruction of the National Health Service. That makes me angry.(here’s why)

I can end only with the most poignant tweet in the run up to the passing of the Health and Social Care Act. It was from someone known as @HeardInLondon, on March 15th

"For a brief period during 20th century, people gave a fuck and looked after each other. Unfortunately this proved unprofitable."

Unprofitable for Crapita, that is.

Follow-up

5 May 2012. Well well, if there were any doubt about the endarkenment values of the College, I see that the Prince of Wales, the Quacktitioner Royal himself, gave a speech at the College’s conference.

"”I have been saying for what seems a very long time that until we develop truly integrated systems – not simply treating the symptoms of disease, but actively creating health, putting the patient at the heart of the process by incorporating our core human elements of mind, body and spirit – we shall always struggle, in my view, with an over-emphasis on mechanistic, technological approaches.”

Of course we all want empathy. The speech, as usual, contributes precisely nothing.

12 June 2012. Oh my, how did I manage to miss the fact the the College’s president, Professor Sir Graeme Catto, is also a Crapita eployee. It’s over a year since he was apponted to Capita’s clinical governance board he says " “ In a rapidly growing health and wellbeing marketplace, delivering best practice in clinical governance is of utmost importance. I look forward to working with the team at Capita to assist them with continuing to adopt a best in class approach.". The operative word is "marketplace".

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Tags: antiscience · CAM · College of Medicine · David Peters · George Lewith · Graeme Catto · herbal medicine · herbalism · Michael Dixon · Prince of Wales · Prince's Foundation · quackademia · UCLH · Uncategorized

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 PhDelinquent // May 3, 2012 at 18:34

    Having had to take a second dose of bendroflumethiazide today to avoid consequences of stroke-inducing rubbish from various quackery quarters, thank you for the quoted tweet, and so much else!

    Am following @HeardInLondon. Will revert to normal dosage tomorrow.

  • 2 GDP // May 3, 2012 at 19:51

    Sounds like the same Capita that repeatedly mislaid my council tax cheques.

  • 3 Majikthyse // May 3, 2012 at 22:28

    Good grief – this is the sort of people who complain about conflicts of interest among drug companies. Pots and kettles.

  • 4 CrewsControl // May 3, 2012 at 23:05

    When highly educated professionals such as Catto, Kennedy and Halligan lend their support to outfits like the CoM it’s hard to accept they are amiable old buffers (as you charitably imply) hypnotised by the persuasive powers of the alt med crowd. So mesmerised, in fact, they pen their moniker to a letter of support without being in full command of the facts. Surely these people have spent their professional lives successfully applying their clinical or legal skills in academia. To suggest that when plausible cranks come a calling they lose their critical faculties is hard to accept. Surely the most likely explanation is that a financial carrot is being dangled somewhere.

  • 5 David Colquhoun // May 3, 2012 at 23:27

    @CrewsControl

    Well Catto and Halligan are certainly amiable. I have had no contact with Ian Kennedy because I can’t find his email address.

    I have to admit that the revelation of the extent to which they are involved with Capita does lend credibility to your less charitable interpretation.

    We’ve seen time and time again, serious people in dark suits who spend ages in committees discussing dreadful nonsense only to end up endorsing it. The last post on anthroposophy in Aberdeen is a good example.

  • 6 jonathon tomlinson // May 4, 2012 at 06:47

    I explained to my medical students this week my opposition to quackery by pointing out that I objected not because it wasn’t medicine, because it epitomised everything that was bad about allopatic (usual) medicine i.e. was lacking in evidence, was over-used, medicalised social problems, was guilty of disease-mongering, encouraged dependency and passivity, was unsustainable and inequitable and riddled with conflicts of interest.

  • 7 Skepticat // May 4, 2012 at 10:37

    I can show you the teaching materials for the CoM’s Critical Appraisal course because I attended it myself. It cost me £60. As a very basic introduction to the topic – a sort of workshop for newbies – it was quite good. If it had been bad, I would have thought of telling you immediately and blogged about it myself. Pilkington’s bias for CAM was perceptible but didn’t impinge on the content, so far as I could tell.

    Btw, of the (approximately) 16 attendees, 9 were medical students from Southampton, who were anticipating a paper on the topic in their finals.

    The papers Pilkington used as case studies were these two:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18253990

    http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/52/1/23.full

    I’ll get my copy of her presentation scanned in and sent to you when I’ve got a moment.

    I came away feeling that courses like that would give the CoM a veneer of respectability, which is presumably why they are running them.

  • 8 David Colquhoun // May 4, 2012 at 19:10

    @Skeptikat
    Wow you spent £60 -that’s beyond the call of duty.

    Did you discover who set the Southampton question about critical appraisal? Were they advised to go by George Lewith, drumming up business for CoM?

    On the basis of what I’ve seen of her work, your description is much what I’d have guessed: low tech beginners stuff. I’ll be fascinated to see the powerpoint. Thanks.

  • 9 Skepticat // May 4, 2012 at 22:41

    I don’t know about the Southampton question. IIRC, a medical student said she saw a poster advertising the event at the uni and told all her friends. I’ll get a pdf of the powerpoint to you in a few days.

  • 10 mconradi // May 13, 2012 at 14:49

    DC i think you seriously risk undermining the strength of your excellent case against quack treatments and pseudo-scientific nonsense (for which i follow your blog) by arguing here, as you seem to, that the simple fact that somebody or organisation might be in favour of the government’s NHS reforms means they shouldn’t be trusted on anything else.

    Of course it’s valid and quite right to point out extreme conflicts of interest between Captia and the College but you go further and say that the fact that the College is involved in the Lansley reforms,and the fact that Professor Halligan likes the Bill, is a reason not to trust them.

    This means you risk having your whole arguments against alternative medicine dismissed as the rant of somebody who is politically biased against the use of private enterprise in medicine – and so you allow those you target to escape having to deal with your arguments in substance.

    Can i (humbly) suggest you leave the politics out of such arguments in future? Thanks!

  • 11 David Colquhoun // May 13, 2012 at 15:18

    @mconradi

    Thanks for the comment. Sadly, I can’t agree that there is any way to separate the politics from the medicine, just as it isn’t possible to separate science or academia in general from politics.

    I admit freely to being “somebody who is politically biased against the use of private enterprise in medicine”. That isn’t, I maintain, because I’m against private business per se, but because of the appalling track record of companies like Capita in increasing costs while delivering a poor service.

    Any organisation which puts out a poster for its Annual Conference with a picture of a homeopathic pharmacist at the top is asking for trouble. No doubt many of the talks were perfectly good, apart from the afternoon session when the quacks (all trustees) got their say.

    The College could be perfectly good, if only it could rid itself of its heritage from the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Nonsense, but it hasn’t done that. All the people in charge come directly from the Prince’s outfit.

    I think it might be more helpful if you suggested that the College should rid itself of both its political and its quackery connections. If it could do that, it might then perform a useful function. At present it’s very like a bait and switch operation, in which its good activities (like on ageing) are being used to smuggle in both quackery and privatisation.

  • 12 David Colquhoun // May 13, 2012 at 15:58

    @mconradi
    Oh don’t you love Google? There aren’t many people called M. Conradi, so I take it you are the telecomms lawyer.

    Telecomms provides a good example of where privatisation worked rather well, because there is competition between different suppliers. I can decide whether to use TalkTalk or Virgin, or whether to buy Apple or Android, and swap quite quickly if I don’t like their product.

    This just doesn’t work for railways, or for health, because the much-touted choice barely exists. If my bit of the health service has been privatised, that’s all that’s available. Likewise, I have no choice about what commuter train I take into London.

    As someone connected with the world of telecomms. I wonder what you think of Capita’s efforts to provide computers for the NHS and for courts. The taxpayer has handed over enormous amounts of money, and they systems don’t work. That is, essentially, fraud. Why should it be any different if they were replacing hips rather than (not) providing computers?

  • 13 mconradi // May 14, 2012 at 03:00

    Yes you have correctly identified me!

    I make no comment about the quality of Capita’s work – and neither do i express any view on the NHS reforms – i don’t know enough about either to make a judgement. As you have identified my day job is in quite a different field.

    Nor do I pretend you can separate “politics from medicine.” You *can* though separate political views from scientific arguments can’t you? There’s nothing political in advocating randomised controlled testing before deciding on appropriate treatments.

    My point is that if, as i have assumed, your main aim is a scientific one – to increase public understanding of the true nature of “alternative” medicine – then you would advance that aim better if you focussed on explaining the dangerous nonsense that lies behind it and on explaining some of the inherent conflicts of interest of those who practice it.

    Thus in this blog post i think you are absolutely right be very critical of the College – it’s just that your points about the NHS reforms seem (to me anyway) to be not scientific but political – and so i think the risk is that the College, and the disinterested reader, might simply say that your political bias is the reason why you don’t like alternative medicine, rather than actually considering the argument.

    If instead your aim is to build support for the view that the NHS reforms are a bad idea then, by contrast, i think it could be very powerful to point out that some of the reform’s advocates have large conflicts of interest and advocate bogus treatments- but i don’t think that this is your aim, at least not in this post.

  • 14 David Colquhoun // May 14, 2012 at 09:43

    @mconradi

    It’s a bit of a cop out to say you don’t know enough about Capita, or about the NHS “Reforms” to express an opinion. There is a vast amount of information about both. I’d already made my view plain about the latter on this blog.

    Sadly, irrational behaviour, such a belief in quackery, is not the monopoly of any political party. Historically, the Greens have been worst of the lot (though they say that’s changed), and Tony and Cherie Blair were notorious for their irrational beliefs (remember his support for a creationist school, and her addiction to quackery?).

    Lack of scientific education is not a party matter, it’s universal, as Mark Henderson points out in his recent book, the Geek Manifesto.

    My guess would be that Cameron is much less of a believer in magic medicine than Blair was, but Cameron will support anything that makes money, regardless of whether it’s ethical or honest

    The basic problem seems to be the inability of almost all politicians to understand what constitutes good evidence and what doesn’t.

  • 15 Dr Michael Dixon of the “College of Medicine” seems to admit that alternative medicine is a placebo // May 27, 2012 at 00:01

    […] sc_project=233721; sc_invisible=0; sc_partition=0; sc_security=""; ← The College of Medicine is in the pocket of Crapita Capita. Is Graeme Catto selling out? […]

  • 16 Policy-based evidence. Department of Health and Prince’s Foundation censor accurate information about magic medicines // Feb 19, 2013 at 23:43

    […] NHS Choices is outsourced to the (in)famous company, Capita. And the moderation of the comments on their site is outsourced again to Tempero, which describes […]

  • 17 Regulation of alternative medicine: why it doesn’t work, and never can // Feb 22, 2013 at 10:17

    […] switch? The first thing to notice is that the whole outfit is skewed towards private medicine: see The College of Medicine is in the pocket of Crapita Capita. The founder, and presumably the main provider of funds (they won’t say how much) is the huge […]

  • 18 Connect Physical Health sells quackery to NHS // Jun 10, 2013 at 21:25

    […] tactic that quacks use in the hope of gaining respectability. A prime example is the "College of Medicine", financed by Capita and replete with quacks, as one would expect since it is the […]

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