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.