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Having recently been fired from Ofquack, the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). I found I was missing the constant dribble of double-speak, Then, as luck would have it, a friend emailed me to draw my attention to a lucrative job at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.  On August 11th I put out a tweet, just in case any of my friends were interested.

How to save money. NHS Scorland (Tayside) advertises for homeopathic doctor http://bit.ly/9Ou9Yo Pathetic #fail

After the story appeared in the Daily Express it occurred to me that I should apply. It seems that NHS Scotland
Tayside) is determined to look idiotic in the eyes of the world.  They advertised for a homeopathic doctor,  The upper level of salary, £68,000 for two sessions a week, is a great deal more than I ever got paid as holder of the established chair of pharmacology at UCL,  Then I discovered that a crystallographer, David Briggs (@xtaldave on twitter) had applied for the job. If he can, why not I?   I found it hard to match the wit of his supporting statement, but just in case others want to apply, here’s my attempt. The more the merrier.

As a Fellow of the Royal Society for the last 25 years, and author of a textbook on statistics, I feel sure that I am capable of dealing with the intellectual rigours of handing out placebos to patients. I feel that my academic qualifications, and my authorship of many research papers, including several articles about homeopathy, should more than make up for my lack of formal qualifications in medicine or homeopathy. Indeed I have spent more time than I care to remember on reading the extensive literature on homeopathy.

Having some expertise in the statistical analysis of clinical trials, my reading of the literature has equipped me well to impress gullible patients with sciencey sounding words like “succussion”, “energy medicine” and “quantum theory”. As an additional qualification, I have read widely about crystal healing, magnetic bracelets, aura photography and other such fairground paraphernalia which are designed, like homeopathy, to impress those with no knowledge of science or medicine.

I have had over two years’ experience of serving on the Conduct and Competence Committee of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, which has provided me with valuable insights into the world of alternative medicine. Indeed I have been told that my name is well known in Clarence House itself.

If appointed to this job, I should like to combine it with research in homeopathy. I would approach this by using systems biology, in the hope that proteomics and metabolomics would be able to explain the still mysterious ability of medicines that contain no medicine to satisfy patients. People whom I know at the University of Westminster have proposed to use systems biology to explain Traditional Chinese Medicine, and I imagine that its application to homeopathy will be every bit as successful as theirs. To have cutting edge research of this sort will, I believe, give NHS Scotland a reputation that will spread around the world.

I would also propose to save the Tayside PCT a lot of money, something not to be ignored in these hard times. At present, homeopathic pharmacies stock many thousands of sorts of pill. Recognising that the majority of them contain nothing at all, I’d retain the labels but fill all the bottles with sugar pills. This would save huge amounts of time and money, while having no effect at all on the outcome for patients.

Despite my lack of formal qualifications, I hope you will agree that I’m qualified intellectually to meet the rigours of your job.



I was not the only person to follow the example of David Briggs (@xtaldave). So far I’ve seen Dean Burnett (@garboy) on Science Digestive, Peter Harrison on Reality is My Religion, and Torgwen.

Three days on, there are at least eleven applications, and the three earliest ones have been read something like 12.000 times.

18 August 2010.  Astonished to receive by snail-mail a straight-faced acknowledgment of my application from NHS Tayside [download pdf]. They ask me to send four copies of my CV and fill in forms for Equal Opportunities and Fitness to Practise.  Does this mean I’ve been short-listed?  This gets more surreal by the minute.

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16 Responses to I miss Ofquack so I’m applying for job as a homeopath

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Colquhoun, James, Alan Henness, Alan Henness, David Briggs and others. David Briggs said: Looks like the competition for the Tayside job is hotting up! @david_colquhoun http://bit.ly/bFVxJ0 @garwboy http://bit.ly/9Vrqm2 #ten23 […]

  • […] David Colquhoun, who has (ahem) experience with this sort of thing, is applying as well.  I’m beginning to wonder whether I should give it a go, too.  I’ve only got a […]

  • Skepticat says:


    However, as a humanities graduate with many years experience as a Samaritan, I think I’m somewhat better qualified for the post, don’t you?

  • Eric the half says:


    Get an Equity card.

    You’ll need it when my College of Medical Performance is up and running. (Still looking for Big Soc funding from the Chainsaw Coalition, though!)

    We’re going to deliver Medical PERFORMANCE – not actual MEDICINE – which utterly liberates us from ethical issues, not to mention issues of integrity and honestly.

    Get any GP to issue a written diagnosis, and we’ll execute a medical performance on it, very cheaply, efficiently and in a manner designed to maximize the placebo effect (white coats, long conversations, possibly a small amount of transient pain, and stethoscopes around the neck).

    You’ll need an Equity card to join, though. We do have some standards.

  • @Skepticat
    I’m sure almost anyone is better qualified than me. I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face.

  • Sili says:

    I can’t beat 6½ years of post doc work (hell, I can’t even beat a ph.d.).

    Pity. I’d have liked to get back to ol’ Blightey.

    Speaking of crystal healing: I’d be very very grateful for a scare story or two, where crystals have cost lives like homoeopathy and anti-vax.

  • CrewsControl says:

    At agricultural shows I’ve recently noticed the stalls of distributors of magnetic bracelets. I’ve read their literature claiming that peer reviewed clinical trials published in the BMJ demonstrate the positive beneficial effect of magnets on osteoarthritis. The paper they all refer to is Harlow et al (2004) BMJ 329 p1450, (Edzard Ernst is also an author). Having read this paper, and particularly the comments that it provoked, it’s quite clear that assessing a treatment as simple as wearing a magnet is not as simple as one might have suspected. The work has attracted the criticism it was poorly designed/performed and that the conclusion of a benefit greater than placebo is not justified.

    This brings me to my main point. When Prof Colquhoun is appointed by NHS Tayside I’m sure he will not carry out preliminary, half baked, provisional assessments of complementary therapies and publish them in a peer reviewed medical journal so that all the cranks can then cite them in their sales literature. Needless to say none of them ever cite Finegold and Flamm (2006) BMJ 332 p4.

  • […] There may be more, but so far I’ve seen applications from David Briggs, Dr Dean Burnett, and David Colquhoun. They were great applications. I decided I’d apply as well, with a supporting statement a […]

  • Avoided Cranium says:

    ‘I’d retain the labels but fill all the bottles with sugar pills.’
    Hardly a good use of taxpayers’ money. Hrrmmph”
    With the going rate for sugar at $532/tonne the responsible thing to do would be to fill the bottles with the same ingredient that went into the Emperor’s Clothes, ie, transparent air.

  • Muscleman says:

    I live in Dundee, the last job I got my boss showed me a pile of applications and told me he hired me because I was on the spot instead of wading through all of them.

    I am also quite well qualified since as a physiologist I understand well the effects of water on the human body. I propose to put a warning about the LD50 of water on every bottle of DI H20 (succussed) I hand out. We don’t want to harm anyone after all.

  • Sili says:

    With the going rate for sugar at $532/tonne the responsible thing to do would be to fill the bottles with the same ingredient that went into the Emperor’s Clothes, ie, transparent air.

    Can’t we use high fructose corn syrup?

  • […] – as a rough guide for how many people we might have made aware of the NHS Tayside situation. David Colquhoun’s and Dean Burnett‘s applications were published on Sunday afternoon – my post at about […]

  • HughWillRidmee says:

    Perhaps I ought to apply – after all, since I know almost nothing about Homeopathy I’m bound to be nearly as good as the job as someone who knows absolutely nothing about the subject.

  • Cats Staff says:

    Can I be one of your 3 references… I would love to get that call. Since I don’t really know you at all, I should be a great reference…less is more…

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