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The questionable influence of HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, on the integration of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into the NHS.
A close look at 'alternative' medicine
Noteworthy CAM articles and reports
19 Buckingham Street, London WC2N 6EF
"The College of Medicine is about bringing back the traditional values of service, commitment and compassion to healthcare. It’s about developing knowledge and evidence that helps the patient instead of expecting the patient to fit the science. Above all, it’s about putting the patient at the centre of everything health professionals do – making sure the art of healing is not lost in our target-driven, technologically sophisticated but sometimes callous world.” Includes a list of who’s who on the 25-member strong governing council. [Summer 2010 – pdf]
“The stated object of the College is "to advance health for the public benefit". Sounds good, but what does it mean? It doesn’t take long to find out. It is laid out in the document from Companies House.
To further its objects the Charity may:
7.1 engage with and develop communities of health professionals, health care providers and patients;
7.2 set standards and promote excellence in the fields of health and care;
7.3 lead, represent, train and support stakeholders so that they are better equipped to serve the public in improving the health ofthe public;
7.4 establish an evidence base for integrated health and for individual complementary modalities;
7.5 promote, foster and advance an integrated approach to health and care;
7.6 raise public, professional and political awareness and cultivate a sentiment in favour of an integrated approach to health and care by publishing and distributing books, pamphlets, reports, leaflets, journals, films, tapes and instructional matter on any media;
and so on, for 36 paragraphs. Already in paragraph 4 to 6 we see their interest is to promote “integrated health” and “complementary modalities. These of course are just what most of the rest of the world calls quackery. The objects don’t differ greatly from the Prince’s Foundation from which this outfit sprang.” Professor David Colquhoun, DC Science (25th July 2010)
Item in the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health’s newsletter in March 2010.
“Last April, I predicted that Prince Charles quackery promoting charity, the Foundation for Integrated Health faced imminent closure due to non submission of accounts to the Charity Commission. Ten days later, the Foundation announced its intention to close amid arrests for fraud and money laundering. In a statement, the charity claimed that it had always intended to close as its aims had been met. This claim was met with derision: a “ludicrous bit of make-believe”, said David Colquhoun. Well, finally the accounts for 2008 have been submitted. The Charity commission usually publishes the accounts of charities, but for some reason they are not available online. So, I asked for a copy and quickly received them. What do they reveal?” Le Canard Noir, The Quackometer (30th July 2010)
“In the controversial area of complementary medicine, the now defunct Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health became involved in trying to change government policy. The charity was paid £1.1m by the Department of Health to advise on the regulation of massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and other complementary therapies as Prince Charles personally lobbied health ministers to embrace such treatments across the NHS. It engaged in a public row with the professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, Edzard Ernst, after Ernst attacked its draft guide to complementary medicines as "outrageous and deeply flawed". The Charity Commission was asked to launch an investigation into allegations it may have breached charity regulations by pursuing a "vendetta" against Ernst before a separate police investigation saw the former finance director, George Gray, arrested and subsequently charged with theft, fraud and money laundering. The trustees have now closed the charity down, a sign perhaps that the strategy of devolving the Prince's campaigns to charities carries real risk to his reputation.” Robert Booth, The Guardian (25th June 2010)
“The Foundation for Integrated Health is closing. Should we be sad? I don't think so…The FIH has repeatedly been economical with the truth. For instance when it published a DoH-sponsored patient guide that was devoid of evidence, they claimed evidence was never meant to be included. But I had seen a draft where it was and friends have seen the contract with the DoH where "evidence" was an important element. I hope that, after the demise of FIH, the discussion about alternative medicine in the UK can once more become rational.” Professor Edzard Ernst, The Independent (1st May 2010)
“A man has been arrested over an alleged £300,000 fraud and money-laundering operation which led to the closure of a charity founded by Prince Charles. Accountant George Gray and his wife Gillian were arrested.” Daily Mail (1st May 2010)
“As predicted last week, Prince Charles Charity has closed amid claims of fraud, money laundering and misuse of charity status….It is laughable that they claim their “key objective of promoting the use of integrated health” has succeeded. Their initiatives to create new regulatory bodies for quackery, University courses in nonsense and increased use of magic medicine in the NHS have all failed…The fact that the charity were planning a big conference in July would suggest that this has not indeed been planned for ‘many months’. Recent arrests and the inability for the charity to submit accounts to the Charity Commissioner would suggest a more forced closure. It is inconceivable that Prince Charles would abandon his support for homeopathy if his hand was not being forced.” The Quackometer (30th April 2010)
"The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH) have been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. £300,000 has apparently gone missing from their accounts, the police are now investigating, and it is claimed their 2006 Smallwood report was funded by shamed politician, Dame Shirley Porter. They have now appointed a former writer for an AIDS denialist publication as their new Chief Executive…Ms [Boo] Armstrong used to write articles extolling the virtues of alternative approaches to health in Continuum, a magazine with an editorial position denying the link between HIV and AIDS as described by science. The FIH have been aware of these articles since at least the summer of 2009.
Ms Armstrong’s appointment is reflective of how wider society has treated alternative medicine in the past, with minimal scrutiny and an assumption of benefit. She has been awarded money from UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, for pushing alternative medicine and has long been funded by the FIH before she was officially placed on their payroll. She has also had a position on the National Clinical Audit Advisory Group (NCAAG) for some time, where her profile lauds her charity work. She was also behind a market research, rather than scientific, project measuring the impact of alternative health in Northern Ireland. This was instigated by former Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, who believes that homeopathy and a restrictive diet* cured his son’s eczema and felt that this justified spending £200,000 of taxpayers money on a weak report. At not point did any of the above investigate her articles for Continuum or even her personal views on various forms of quackery, for example she thinks that osteopaths should be considered equivalent to doctors.
However, more recently, Ms Armstrong and the FIH are becoming unstuck, quite apart from any police investigation. Thanks to the tenacious David Colquhoun, the recent attempts by an FIH backed organisation to set up an Integrated Medicine course with the University of Buckingham has failed. In particular Ms Armstrong was rejected as a teacher because she was “not qualified to do so academically”. The FIH have also been reported to the Charities Commission by Republic, a pro-republican pressure group, due to alleged political interference by the Charity and Prince Charles in the appointment of Professor Ernst."
Gimpy’s Blog (9th April 2010)
“As you may have heard, Republic has submitted a formal complaint to the Charity Commission regarding the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health. The complaint relates to the ongoing dispute between Charles and Professor Edzard Ernst at Exeter University. We believe there is strong evidence to suggest that the organisation is acting at the behest of Charles rather than in the public interest.” James Gray, Republic (23rd March 2010)
Entitled 'The role of complementary and alternative medicine in the NHS', the Smallwood Report was commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) "with the objective of taking a fresh and independent look - within a reasonable timescale - at the contribution which complementary therapies can potentially make to the delivery of healthcare in the UK". The report was led by Christopher Smallwood (an economist) with the support of a consultancy team from FreshMinds.
NOTE: The report's principal recommendation is that NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) should carry out a full assessment of the cost effectiveness of complementary therapies.
[194-page PDF download] (Released 6th October 2005)
"The Prince of Wales [Prince Charles] has secretly commissioned a report into the benefits of complementary therapies in an attempt to persuade the Government to offer more of them on the NHS." (The questionable Smallwood Report on CAM is scheduled to be released in October 2005) Report by Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent, and Andrew Pierce, The Times (24th August 2005)
"The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health hopes to have signed up 150 GPs to the new and controversial scheme by October. Those who join will become "associates" of the foundation and are expected to offer a wide range of herbal and other alternative treatments to their patients." The Sunday Times (14th August 2005)
“The most corrupt British public figure in living memory” used her cash to produce misleading quack report. The report [Smallwood Report] has proved to be very controversial because it was commissioned by Prince Charles and was sent directly to government ministers in an attempt to influence them to fund the provision of pseudo-medical treatments, such as homeopathy, within the NHS. Given, the unique constitutional position of the future monarch, direct lobbying over specific policy issues is seen as being in conflict with the democratic process.
Furthermore, when an academic, Edzard Ernst, criticised the report as being deeply flawed, the Prince’s private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, wrote to the University of Exeter to complain about the whistle-blowing of Ernst. Since then, The Prince’s charity, the Foundation for Integrated Health has stated that Peat wrote to Exeter on their behalf as Peat was their chairman. However, this was not true as the complaint clearly stated that Peat was writing both in his role of “Prince of Wales’ Principal Private Secretary and as Acting Chairman of His Royal Highness’ Foundation for Integrated Health”.
The origin of the report had a peculiar origin too. Originally commissioned by the Foundation for Integrated Health by asking the economist Christopher Smallwood and the research consultancy FreshMinds to take a “fresh and independent look at the role of complementary medicine” in the NHS, it suddenly switched to being directly commissioned by the Prince of Wales himself. And when the Prince took direct responsibility, the funding appeared to switch too. In a comment on my last blog post, Ernst makes it clear that the money was coming from Dame Shirley Porter and that Smallwood made it clear the Prince did not want it to be known who was behind the financing.” The Quackometer (6th April 2010)
“The Foundation for Integrated Health risks closure within days amid claims of fraud and misuse of charity status…..This closure will be a humiliation and bitter blow for the Prince of Wales. His involvement in quackery has brought much criticism as he appears to directly wish to influence the political direction of the NHS by including nonsensical and disproven quack treatments into public healthcare. The closure of the charity will also be a great blow for all alternative therapists in the UK as it has been one of the most powerful voices for the promotion of quackery. It has had the ear of the Department of Health. Its demise will hopefully allow more rational voices to be heard.” The Quackometer (20th April 2010)
“As well as appointing a Chief Executive who wrote for an AIDS denialist magazine, the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH) have also come under scrutiny for alleged financial irregularities and channeling money from a disgraced politician, Dame Shirley Porter, to fund a commissioned report, the Smallwood Report. Motivated by this I have examined the accounts for the FIH and some of the various bodies that have funded them, including the Porter Foundation- Dame Porter’s charitable organisation. This has revealed some unusual transactions.” Gimpyblog (20th April 2010)
“No matter what the result of the fraud investigation or what the Charity Commission decide, the Foundation for Integrated Health ought to be disbanded. It is not a trusted authority on alternative medicine as it is only interested in uncritical advocacy. But most importantly, the explicit guiding hand of the Prince of Wales creates the impossibility of objectiveness. The Prince has the power to bestow great privileges through honours and patronage. His direct involvement in the output of this body makes it highly likely that, consciously or not, people will not act in a manner contrary to his unscientific belief in magical medicine. As Ernst has said in the Guardian, “I have repeatedly been told he cannot tolerate advice which is not 100% in line with his opinion … I think his advisors are all sycophants.”” The Quackometer (4th April 2010)
“Prince Charles's health charity, which campaigns for the wider use of homeopathic and herbal remedies, is facing possible investigation by the Charity Commission over claims that it may have breached charity regulations….The complaint states the trustees of the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH) allowed the foundation's staff to pursue a public "vendetta" against a prominent critic of the prince's support for complementary medicines, Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University. It also suggests the imminent closure of Ernst's department may be partly down to the charity's official complaint about him after he publicly attacked its draft guide to complementary medicines as "outrageous and deeply flawed".” The Guardian (19th March 2010)
NOTE: Following a complaint from Sir Michael Peat (the Prince of Wales' Principal Private Secretary and Acting Chairman of his Foundation for Integrated Health) regarding an alleged breach of confidentiality over the draft Smallwood Report that was out for review, Professor Edzard Ernst explains here why he publicly criticised it: “…I was contacted by a journalist who had seen the draft report (not through my leaking it!) asking my opinion on it. I was, of course, bound by confidentiality not to disclose its contents. However, as the journalist knew it already, there was no need to. I thus commented mainly on the flawed methodology of the document and this made the title page of The Times (24 August 2005). When the final version of the report was published in October 2005, the press was keen to have my opinion again. After I had managed to see a copy, I was disappointed to see that it was still far from sound. I gave several interviews…” Further background details on the issue are available via this video clip. Sir Michael Peat’s letter, written on Clarence House notepaper, can be viewed at 4:52 minutes in, and the letter from the University of Exeter in which it decided against issuing Professor Ernst with a formal disciplinary warning, can be viewed at 6:54 minutes in.
Includes criticism of the Chair of the Foundation of Integrated Health and Personal Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales, Sir Michael Peat, and Dr Michael Dixon, the Foundation of Integrated Health’s Medical Director and one of its Trustees. Republic (18th March 2010) [pdf]