Well Struck

In which a campaigner for the Saatchi Bill proves my point, and I receive some unexpected news

12th May 2014

I don’t normally write posts so close together, but this one sort of wrote itself. If you’re the sort of person who can’t stand suspense, or you’re in a hurry, skip to the last section.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the Saatchi Bill campaign, and the lack of truth in some of the things Saatchi campaigners were saying and doing. I listed some of those things, and explained why I thought they were wrong. Then, in a beautiful piece of timing, an article was published the very next day which demonstrated pretty much all the points I had been making. Written by a certain Dr John Rumbold, it was a startling defence of the Saatchi campaign and attack on its detractors.

Here’s the five categories of my original article.

1)      The Conflict of Interest.

2)      The False Consultation.

3)      The Bait and Switch.

4)      It’s only lawyers who are opposed, and they just want to keep on lawyering.

5)      Who supports this bill?

So let’s see how well John Rumbold’s article hits the buttons, shall we?

 Conflict of Interest (Undeclared)

First off, John Rumbold has not mentioned in this article that he has (he claims) carried out work for the Saatchi campaign. His twitter timeline (under the username @DocInsanity) contains many references which suggest he worked on the bill, has insight into the bill team’s processes, or information not available outside the team.  Here’s a few tweets:

jr04

jr05sm

jr03

jr07

jr08

jr09

And then there’s this, “our letter to the editor…”

jr10

So while he berates lawyers and patient groups for their supposed conflicts, he doesn’t mention his own.

There’s something else that Rumbold hasn’t declared as well, but I’ll leave that to the end.

 Bait and Switch

I mentioned in my blog post how supporters of the campaign would keep saying there was a new draft of the bill on the way as an attempt to shut down criticism.

Here’s Rumbold:

Sadly, some so-called “skeptics” have leapt on the wording of some sub-sections of the draft bill for consultation which they say amount to a “Quack’s Charter” (wording which will be changed in future drafts, this being the nature of the legislative process).

I repeat my previous point – we were invited to give our views on this bill. We can only give our views on the wording in front of us. If the wording is bad, we have to say so. It’s part of the legislative process to change the wording in response to criticism. One would have thought this was obvious. So it’s not “sad” to criticise the wording, it’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

 It’s only lawyers who are opposed, and they just want to keep on lawyering.

Rumbold:

It is not a quack’s charter, but some negligence lawyers have mounted a campaign against the Saatchi Bill alleging that this is the case. Naturally, they have presented this as protecting patient’s rights. The right to sue their doctors – which of course benefits medical negligence lawyers. The massive conflict of interest here cannot and should not be ignored. These are the same groups that deny that “defensive medicine” exists, or that doctors are ever sued for frivolous reasons. This is demonstrably not true. They wish to persist with litigation-based solutions for obvious reasons.

The “patient groups” that opposed the bill are in many cases those which are heavily funded by large medical negligence concerns.

Here we go. So, according to Rumbold, the opposition is either lawyers, or paid by lawyers. Let’s gloss over the failure to cite evidence for the assertion about patient groups being funded by teh legalz typez, in his few brisk sentences focussing on lawyers Rumbold has completely overlooked the Royal Colleges, the GMC, the BMA, basically the member organisations and registering bodies covering every doctor in the UK. Or are they all funded by lawyers too?

 The False Consultation
Who supports this bill?

Rumbold:

Both the lawyers and skeptics are ignoring the overwhelmingly positive public consultation

Once again with the lack of clarity about the consultation – is this the official consultation he refers to, or the shadow-Saatchi consultation in which they diverted as many respondents as they could into their own response page rather than the official one? If it’s the Saatchi one, it can’t be trusted, as nobody else has seen it and it is tainted by the lack of independent oversight. If it is the official one, how can it be described as overwhelmingly positive in the face of near-uniform opposition from all the professional medical bodies, along with any patient groups that Rumbold might admit are not among the “many” he claims are just fronts for the legal profession?

Okay, I think that’s a full house. Before I go to this article’s punchline, I’d just like to pick up on a couple of other points in Rumbold’s article.

Rumbold:

The Saatchi Bill is intended to only have benefits for patients who have a condition where there is no standard treatment.

It seems [skeptics’] monomaniacal obsession with fighting “quackery” prevents them objectively assessing the merits of the aims of the bill.

Thus a combination of vested interests and paternalism is trying to prevent patients with diseases that are incurable with current technology having a last hope of a cure.

This goes to the heart of the problem, right here. Skeptics have assessed the aims of the bill. We actually like the aims of the bill at a basic level. Who wouldn’t? The stated aims of the bill are to promote responsible innovation and deter irresponsible innovation. We’d like some of that, please, in fact we’d like lots of it.

The problem is that we can see the bill will not achieve those aims. It can’t, in its present form, and trying to deflect the argument into a claim that we’re trying to prevent ill people being cured isn’t just offensive, it’s completely wrong.

As an example, the bill may be intended to only have benefits for patients where there is no standard treatment but, as many of us have pointed out, there is nothing to prevent it being applied much more widely, and no effective restraint on irresponsible or dangerous treatment.

This requires more than “changed wording” to fix, it requires the whole underpinning of the bill to be thrown out.

Rumbold:

Also advocates of evidence-based medicine are opposed to the bill, on similar grounds. This ignores the fact that innovative treatment is used all the time in modern medicine. Both their positions are based on an acceptance that the current legal position does not inhibit innovation (again the opinion of the medical negligence lawyers), which is arguable. Nonetheless, neither the skeptics nor the EBM advocates accept any room for shades of opinion, an absolutist position which might be acceptable in EBM but is certainly not intellectually sustainable in law.

Yes, we know innovative treatments are used all the time, that’s kind of the point, John. And since innovative treatments are used all the time, doesn’t it rather spike the argument that innovative treatments are prevented by fear of litigation?

There is room for shades of opinion in medicine, the profession as it stands is not absolutist, as “Dr” Rumbold should know very well, so I don’t understand the mischaracterisation here, unless it is considered a negative to require some sort of evidence-based rationale for a proposed treatment. Oooh, can I hear the words “quack’s charter” gallumphing their cheerful way back towards the page?

Rumbold:

Worse of all, some of the “skeptics” have resorted to promulgate ill-founded rumours about the motives of the bill backers and the sources of funding. This is mud-smearing of the worst sort and completely contrary to the principles of rational argument these skeptics supposedly support.

Well, I have to admit I did wonder, in my first article on the Saatchi bill, whether it was an attempt by the government to divest itself of the mounting costs arising from medical negligence claims, even though those claims don’t generally relate to innovation but to negligence in normal practice. I didn’t think anybody could be daft enough to think the Saatchi Bill would actually achieve its stated aim of encouraging responsible innovation and discouraging irresponsible innovation. I now have to allow I could be mistaken in that assumption. There are people daft enough to think this bill would help.

The Sting in the Tail.   Er, Tale.     (Tale/Tail).

Anyway, back to Dr John Rumbold. I first encountered him on Twitter, dropping into conversations in a typically-Saatchi-bill-kind-of-way, telling everybody it was all just fine and being pretty sharply disparaging of anybody who disagreed. It was only after I had an exchange with him that I received a few DMs pointing out his background.

And what a background.

For it would seem that there is only one John Rumbold listed on the GMC list of medical practitioners, and he was struck off the register in 2008 after being convicted on several counts of possession of child pornography.

I’m not sure, but I think it’s generally considered bad form in the UK to continue to call yourself “Dr” after you’ve been struck off, as Mr Rumbold did on his article. But anyhoo, there’s another question I think needs answering. Did he work for the Saatchi campaign, as he appears to be claiming?

If he did work for them, then a person convicted of possessing child pornography was part of the Saatchi campaign which, without getting all Daily Mail-ish, might be considered a bit of a public relations faux pas. If he didn’t then his claims are a fantasy, and that might affect how you view his article in World Medical Times, and also their editorial policy.

I admit I was curious as to whether he really was involved in the Saatchi campaign as he claimed, so I tweeted Dominic Nutt (the Saatchi Campaign’s Communications Director) and the Saatchi Bill Twitter account.

sbdn1

I didn’t get a reply, but something curious did happen. Within two hours of my tweet John Rumbold’s Twitter account – @DocInsanity –was protected, hidden from viewing by anybody not vetted by Rumbold himself. A couple of days later it was renamed.

I have tweeted Dominic Nutt and the Saatchi Bill’s Twitter accounts twice since, asking for clarification on Rumbold’s relationship with the bill team. I have not had a response. Dominic at least is still regularly active on Twitter, so I hope he will respond soon, and I will publish any answer here if I receive it.

 

Edit note: This page was altered on 12th May 2014 to make a correction: @DocInsanity’s account has apparently been renamed to @neurolawguy.

Additional note 12/5/14: See the comment below from an individual describing themselves as a “paid member of the Innovation Bill team”. The comment states that John Rumbold was at no time engaged to work on the team in any capacity. I have no verification of the identity of this commenter.

Other posts on the Saatchi Bill

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5 Responses to “Well Struck”

  1. I confirm that John Rumbold was at no time engaged to work on the Saatchi Bill team in any capacity. Our correspondence with him has been on the same basis as with others who have expressed an interest in the Bill.

    • Dominic Nutt May 12, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

      For clarification, the comment above was posted by Dominic Nutt of the Saatchi Bill team.

  2. Darren Conway May 12, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    The person that you refer to is probably this person;
    http://www.keele.ac.uk/risocsci/currentstudents/students/rumboldjohn/
    Qualified in medicine and law. Interests are in criminal law!

    • chapmancentral May 18, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

      I wonder how many John Rumbolds qualified in medicine from Dundee, as his Keele profile says he did? That profile is definitely the same person, he says his Twitter handle is @DocInsanity. I think it highly unlikely – to the point of being an absolutely bizarre coincidence – that the struck-off doctor and @DocInsanity are different people.

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