Susan Bewley gives her response to an MP’s ‘surprise’ that the royal colleges did not back the new medical innovation bill he put forward

Dear Chris Heaton-Harris,

I have recently read an article in HSJ about your private member’s bill.

Apparently you say: “I am surprised that the Academy [of Royal Colleges] has made these statements, which seem to relate more to the old Medical Innovation Bill (MIB) introduced by Lord Saatchi in the House of Lords a few months ago than to my bill.”

I ask: How can you possibly be surprised that the medical profession is so unanimously against your bill, when it’s so similar to the MIB, and just as unnecessary and dangerous? I’ve seen the “stop-the-saatchi-bill’ website that does a side by side comparison, and there is a remarkable congruence for someone claiming to be his own man with his own bill.

You say: “Considering many of the colleges that form the academy have individually called for the database my bill seeks to introduce, and that the main part of my bill simply confers a power on the secretary of state to establish such a database, I can only assume they have misunderstood the intention or misread the content of the bill.”

I say: Which college ever individually called for a database? Why would any of the royal colleges want a UK only database of anecdotal (and potentially quack) innovations enshrined in law when the medical profession has been setting up databases (and across countries) for decades and decades? Do you really think scientists don’t know what they are doing and can’t set up a database, if it were of any possible use, without a law?

You say: “Should my bill achieve its second reading on Friday, I will continue to consult and work with the royal colleges and other interested parties.”

I say: Is that the kind of “consulting” - as in not listening and then misquoting - that we’ve seen before? These comments bear all the hallmarks of the same PR team who were advising Lord Saatchi from before. Are you getting help, advice, encouragement and/or payments from Lord Saatchi’s team?

Please think through why you are doing this in the face of opposition from medicine and science, which have their own longstanding and successful ways of working. Innovators simply do not need law to make them innovate. To be brutally, simply truthful, you are making a category/paradigm error.

Thanks for listening.

Susan Bewley is professor of complex obstetrics at King’s College London