Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews No Holds Barred

Margaret McCartney: Forever indebted to pharma—doctors must take control of our own education

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h1965 (Published 13 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1965

Sunshine Act for Scotland: transparency, independence and accountability

“Paying our own way would enable doctors to regain control.” I agree with Dr McCartney's article. That doctors' independence in the area of pharmaceutical drugs is paramount so that patients can continue to trust the advice given and drugs prescribed. As an unpaid Carer I would also appreciate the reassurance that the doctors who support the family members I care for are free from conflicts of interest and that their attentions are firstly and firmly focused on the patient.

I would like to draw attention to the transparency work of consultant psychiatrist Dr Peter J Gordon in this respect, his ongoing Petition to Scottish Parliament urging the Scottish Government to introduce a Sunshine Act for Scotland. Creating a searchable record of all payments (including payments in kind) to NHS Scotland healthcare workers from Industry and Commerce. (1)

Dr Gordon is a writer and film maker who, through the medium of his Hole Ousia website and Omphalos videos, highlights a range of topics and issues in his profession, including sponsored medical education, conflicts of interest between pharmaceutical companies and doctors, and the underpinning ethics of the therapeutic relationship.

Up to this point Dr Gordon’s Sunshine Act petition has been heard and debated in Scottish Parliament on 4 occasions, the first of which was the initial giving of evidence by the petitioner and subsequent considerations by the Public Petitions Committee. Most recently on 31 March 2015 (2) when there were discussions by MSPs about statutory legislation and it was agreed to keep the petition open while also writing to Scottish Government regarding further action. Requesting a review of their directive, NHS Circular HDL (2003) 62, instructing health boards to set up Registers of Interest so that staff can declare payments from pharmaceutical companies (3). The health boards in Scotland have not been complying with this government directive, in relation to transparency.

As an unpaid carer and now in receipt of a state pension I am encouraged by the transparency work of Dr McCartney, Dr Gordon and others, who are leading by example and advocating for people like us, customers of the health service.

1 PE01493: A Sunshine Act for Scotland, Petitioner Peter John Gordon, Scottish Parliament website:
https://www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/sunshineact

2 A Sunshine Act for Scotland (parliamentary update), Hole Ousia website:
https://holeousia.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/a-sunshine-act-for-scotland-p...

3 NHS Circular HDL (2003) 62, Scottish Government:
http://www.sehd.scot.nhs.uk/mels/HDL2003_62.pdf

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 April 2015
Chrys E Muirhead
Writer; Carer
Cupar, Fife, Scotland