In a fascinating display of parliamentary quick change tango, Lord Saatchi’s creation has hotfooted not only back to the Lords to be read a second time in July (with the hopes of subverting usual procedure and fast-tracking straight to the lower house for its completion- with a time limit of one year from its reappearance) but, according to the Bill’s website, it is now replicated in the PMB proposed by MP Chris Heaton-Harris in the Commons.
A GP with decades of experience in practice and medical education, Dr Wollaston became an MP in 2010 after an open primary in Totnes. Her invaluable experience and insight on national and local issues of importance as well as her specialist expertise made her the ideal choice to inform the Westminster vacuum.
She was soon appointed to the Health Select Committee, a cross-party committee to hold the government and health bodies to account and make policy recommendations. In 2014 she was elected Chair. She did a fantastic job in the role and it would be a terrible disservice to health policy, the committee and the government’s credibility if she were not Chair again. Very few are as qualified and appropriate for the role and, felt keenly with the absence of such MPs as Julian Huppert on this occasion, we need to maximise the insightful few that we have. She’s also a rather great role model.
Her challenger for the role is David Tredinnick.
Why is that news? Well it’s perhaps not that newsworthy I guess, and that’s what’s scary.
David Tredinnick’s appointment to the Health Select Committee itself was really quite shocking, but that was way back in 2010. Though inapposite, add in the company of other desperately unqualified persons such as Nadine Dorries and it’s no longer a surprise.
Tredinnick, MP is so out there he’s ‘a hallucinogenic substance in his own right’. He is a big supporter of his own variant of astrology, not only claiming for personal development courses, but once claiming expenses from taxpayers for £755.33 of ‘computer software and consultancy to investigate whether astrology can be linked to alternative medicine.’
In the House of Commons he has stated emphatically that blood does not clot on a full moon, and surgeons won’t operate on full moons. Indeed his fear of the moon has been raised on a number of occasions. He launched a tirade of EDMs at the indignance of people who knew what they were talking about to talk about stuff, like homeopathy; and relied upon so-completely-unambiguously-discredited studies to support his claims, even those which claimed to cure cancer and where authors asked to be removed from papers.
He still believes astrology should be used more often in healthcare in the UK. Recently in 2015 he reiterated the virtues of astrology as “a useful diagnostic tool enabling us to see strengths and weaknesses via the birth chart” and proclaimed that astrology and complementary medicine “would help take the huge pressure off doctors”. So much for Francis and safe staffing. Perhaps NICE have already a-okayed this as it’s clearly cheaper to replace legitimate health policy with ‘the nuttier side of woomongery’.
‘How to handle the ongoing issue of having this bizarre, deeply wrongheaded man in a position of influence over matters that demand evidence-based decision making?’ asked Adam Rutherford, 5 years ago. The indulgence of his personal interest in astrology to the detriment and exclusion of real matters for his constituents and for the health of the nation has not gone unnoticed in parliament either.
But now this man, who Professor Brian Cox politely termed ‘an outlier on the spectrum of reason’ not only wants to be on it, he has been nominated to chair the Health Select Committee.
Almost impossible to parody it’s not actually funny.
These are not the affable, eccentricities of your distant uncle or your old headmaster. This is not harmless.
Championing discredited studies as evidence in parliament, including for cancer treatment, is deeply contemptible. Steering health policy in this way is like crashing it into the dover cliffs. It’s not “the awesome power of the moon” flinging it there – it’s Westminster sinking itself, and the rest of us in the process.
More from Professor Cox here.
Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill (more properly titled the unfounded novel use, irresponsible human experimentation and removal of redress Bill) was not, in the end, rushed through in the last parliament, despite the best attempts of Lord Saatchi to use his weight and talents to create extra time and special rules. In his shock that this, sanctioned by the conservatives, was not going to work out, he proclaimed that Nick Clegg was a nasty murderous sort with blood on his hands, and had handed down a death sentence to patients.
All Nick et al had done was say, hang on a minute – medical organisations, patient charities and medical defence orgs don’t want the Bill, patient safety experts and legal experts are up in arms abut the Bill, and Wales unanimously condemned it, and were quite horrified by it. Perhaps we shouldn’t rush this dangerous and widely condemned draft legislation in these circumstances and instead it warrants detailed scrutiny, at best, and certainly not to be pushed through in this cavalier fashion because of who Saatchi is how much power he wields or how much he donates.
Who he is does not make it right to risk (limitless) patients’ lives, safety, dignity and their quality of life.
Saatchi’s crew then went flat out trying to pressure the Lib Dems to cave in to the Conservative deal to allow this monster of a danger to be passed without any scrutiny by deploying the tried and tested setting up of petitions and shouting in the press at a crucial pinch point before the election. Thankfully the Lib Dems had more integrity, and some very sensible MPs who understood science. (Though Sarah Wollaston is a stalwart of sense, she has not been listened to by her own party – and has found herself surrounded by some extraordinarily inept characters.)
At the HealthWatch public debate on the Bill held at King’s College London in March, Nigel Poole QC and Nick Ross spelled out the problems with irrefutable clarity and sense.
Alas clarity, sense, science and integrity are being challenged once more by the undead Bill, raised from the ground and re-entering the House of Lords on the 8th June.
Worse still, the attempt to limit scrutiny and avert the gaze of noble Lords who may know what they are talking about has gone to new lengths. Lord Saatchi has given notice to the House to agree a motion that Standing Order 46 (no two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with, allowing the Bill, which would need to be identical to that which left the Lords, to career straight through to the Commons without any stages of examination by learned peers, and be pushed through on the nod. If there’s one thing we need, it is proper scrutiny, particularly in light of the overwhelming opposition to the Bill from those who know what they are talking about, including those in parliament and experts in patient safety such as Sir Francis QC and Sir Ian Kennedy QC.
More info: Stop the Saatchi Bill