Psychiatrists Paid by Outside Interests
Extracts from “CORPORATE COLLUSION?” by Margaret Williams:
Action for ME: the other main UK patients' charity, Action for ME (AfME), has had a chequered history. In September 1993 it changed its name and logo to "Action for ME and Chronic Fatigue". Complaints were made to the Charity Commission and the charity subsequently dropped "Chronic Fatigue". On 24th July 2003, in a statement approved by its Council of Management, the charity announced that it is funded by the Department of Health.
Psychiatrist Michael Sharpe (infamous for his "undeserving sick" comment quoted above) is one of its medical advisers, though his name does not appear on the charity literature. It is well-known that in UnumProvident's Chief Medical Officer's Report (Trends in Disability, December 2002) Sharpe wrote: "Functional symptoms are not going to go away. Privatised doctors will collude with the patient's views that they have a disabling and permanent disease. An increase in insurance claims is to be therefore anticipated. It will be imperative that social policy addresses this problem. This will not be easy. However, there are glimmers of progress. One of the major patient charities, Action for ME, is aligning itself with a more evidence-based approach. If this convergence of rehabilitation-orientated clinicians and a patient's advocacy group is successful, there could be very positive implications for insurers".
This liaison is encapsulated in the statement by Lord Turnberg (the former Sir Leslie Turnberg, President of The Royal College of Physicians): "The largest patients' charity, Action for ME, is working closely with Wessely and his colleagues on new research initiatives funded by the MRC and the NHS" (Hansard [Lords]: 22nd January 2004: Vol 656: No. 27:1186). It was under the auspices of Turnberg that the biased and highly flawed 1996 Joint Royal Colleges' Report CR54 on "CFS" was produced with his full support (see below).
Professor Anthony Pinching is currently AfME's Principal Medical Adviser. He is lead adviser on "CFS/ME" to the Department of Health and was responsible for allocating the £8.5 million grant from Government for the new "CFS" Centres that deliver only psychotherapy. His views on "CFS/ME" were set out in his article in Prescribers' Journal in 2000:40:2:99-106, published when he was Deputy Chair of the Chief Medical Officer's Working Group on "CFS/ME" ("CFS is not related to on-going exertion"; "the Oxford criteria are too narrow for clinical use"; "over-investigation can [cause patients] to seek abnormal test results to validate their illness"; "complementary therapists sometimes introduce or reinforce unhelpful illness beliefs"; "the essence of treatment is activity management and graded rehabilitation").
In March 2001 AfME produced an excellent report, Severely Neglected: M.E. in the UK. This report was the result of a membership survey of 2,338 respondents, making it the biggest survey ever done on ME in the UK. Its confidential Preliminary Report of 28th February 2001 stated: "graded exercise was reported to be the treatment that had made most people worse" but in the published version, this was changed to reporting that graded exercise made 50% of respondents worse. This makes it all the more surprising that AfME "is working closely with Wessely and his colleagues on research initiatives funded by the MRC and the NHS" when those "initiatives" are based on graded exercise.
AfME's report found that 77% of respondents experienced severe pain because of ME; nearly two out of three had received no advice from their GP on managing the illness; 70% were either never able, or were sometimes too unwell to attend a doctor's clinic; 80% of those who were bedridden by ME reported that a request for a home visit by a doctor had been refused, and that many people did not receive State benefits to which they were clearly entitled and desperately needed in order to survive.
By aligning itself with the Wessely School, who have a 20 year published track record of denigrating patients with ME, AfME has done patients with ME a massive disservice and may well have devalued the charity's own important report.
Michael Sharpe has a similar published track record to that of Wessely: he asserts that in "CFS/ME", personality factors have been shown to perpetuate disability; that no immunological, virological or nuclear imaging tests should be carried out
Read more on The Wessely School psychiatric lobby and ME/CFS patients' charities