Views & Reviews Personal View

On drinking from a poisoned chalice

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2347 (Published 31 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2347
  1. Rod Griffiths, president, Faculty of Public Health
  1. rod{at}stonebow.demon.co.uk

    For a period in the late 1990s there were repeated headlines about research on children in North Staffordshire NHS Trust using continuous negative extrathoracic pressure (CNEP). They alleged that excessive deaths had occurred. As regional director of public health I had already commented to the media that premature babies of that age had a significant mortality and that the children in the trial had fared no worse that expected. Public health passed the story to the research and development directorate.

    The story did not go away and local MPs took it up. A meeting with the relevant minister and one of the MPs took place. The director of research and development should have gone, but he was in America. The minister wanted someone from the regional office to be present. I went.

    By the time of the meeting formal complaints had already been made both to the General Medical Council and to the trust. To my surprise the minister asked a new, though not unreasonable, question: could there be a problem with the governance system, at that trust or in general? I was the regional director of public health, and I came out of …

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