Observations Lobby Watch

The College of Medicine

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d3712 (Published 15 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3712
  1. Jane Cassidy, freelance journalist
  1. janecassi2{at}googlemail.com

What is it?

The College of Medicine, which launched in October last year (BMJ 2010;341:c6126, doi:10.1136/bmj.c6126), aims to promote holistic medicine in the NHS. Its president is Graeme Catto, former president of the General Medical Council. Its vice president is Ian Kennedy, an expert in medical ethics whose review of children’s health services for the Department of Health for England was published in September (BMJ 2010;341:c5129, doi:10.1136/bmj.c5129).

Some of the college’s senior figures were also involved in the Prince of Wales’s complementary health charity, the Foundation for Integrated Health. The foundation closed last year after police launched a theft, fraud, and money laundering inquiry. George Gray, its finance director, was charged with the theft of £250 000 [€280 000; $405 000] and is currently serving a three year prison term.

None of those helping to run the new college were involved in the police investigation. A report in the Guardian newspaper quoted a spokesman for the Prince of Wales as saying that the prince was aware of the college but had no official role.

What agenda does it have?

The college is campaigning for the acceptance of “an integrated approach to health” among doctors, scientists, and patients. Its philosophy involves taking into account patients’ beliefs and personal circumstances and helping patients look after their own health. Projects and services it singles out for praise include the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, the complementary therapy service of the Christie Hospital, Manchester, and the maternity acupuncture service of the Whittington Hospital, London.

At its first annual conference last month its chairman, Mike Dixon, said that the government’s NHS health reforms were not enough. “It’s time for a revolution—a complete paradigm shift,” he said.

What does the government think of complementary medicine?

Last year the government rejected calls from the parliamentary science and technology select committee to withdraw homoeopathic remedies from the NHS (BMJ 2010;341:c4073, doi:10.1136/bmj.c4073). Decisions on funding homoeopathy will continue to be made by general practitioners and primary care trusts.

Where does it get its money from?

The college is expecting to receive a cash boost from a star studded Royal Albert Hall charity concert taking place next month. The concert’s organiser, Jacky Paice, is wife of Ian Paice, the drummer of the rock band Deep Purple. Her twin sister is married to the former Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord, and the heavy metal legends will be headlining the concert on 8 July.

Other prominent rock musicians billed to appear in the “Superjam” event include Rick Wakeman. Superjam 2011 is expected to be the biggest fundraiser to date organised by the charity the Sunflower Jam, which works with the College of Medicine.

The college is putting together initiatives to train doctors and nurses in complementary medicine, said Ms Paice, founder of the Sunflower Jam. She describes herself as having practised as a healer, working in clinics to help people.

Past Superjam concerts have raised thousands of pounds to fund complementary therapists or “healers,” as they are described on the event website, to work with children in NHS cancer wards.

This year the actor Jeremy Irons is offering a free four night stay in his Irish castle home as one of several luxury prizes to be auctioned at the concert. Irons regularly hosts the event, which launched in 2006 when almost £100 000 was raised to fund complementary therapists at University College Hospital, London. Money raised at subsequent events has continued to fund therapists in paediatric oncology units at University College Hospital and other hospitals.

Alternative treatments for children who have cancer, offered alongside NHS treatment, can have incredible effects, said Irons. “So what we’re trying to do is to sort of nudge gently the NHS, through training programmes, through the College of Medicine. We hope to be working with Great Ormond Street Hospital, but these things take time to get in place,” he said.

As well as benefiting from the proceeds of the Superjam event, the college is to raise funds by offering various categories of membership, along with educational courses, events, and publications.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3712