Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 135 - 139)




  135. Colleagues, may I welcome you to this session of the Committee and welcome our first group of witnesses? May I thank you on behalf of the Committee for your co-operation with our inquiry and the very helpful evidence you have submitted? May I ask you each to introduce yourself briefly to the Committee starting with you, Dr Walker?

  (Dr Walker) My name is David Walker. I am the Acting Director of Public Health at Newcastle and North Tyneside Health Authority.
  (Dr Crayford) I am Tim Crayford, Deputy Director of Public Health from Croydon Health Authority.
  (Ms Marlow) I am Helen Marlow, Pharmaceutical Adviser at Croydon Health Authority. I should also point out that I am a member of the editorial board of Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin and I also work part time for the National Prescribing Centre.
  (Dr Cunningham) I am Deirdre Cunningham, Director of Public Health and Health Systems at Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority.

  136. May I begin by asking about the issue of the independence of NICE, which is an area which has been raised with us by a number of witnesses? Certainly there is evidence from some of your written submissions relating to this question. May I put to you Ms Marlow that in looking at your evidence in particular you talk first of all about conflicts of interest and I should like you to expand on that? You also talk about what you imply is a lack of robust procedures for declarations of interest. Could you expand a bit on the concerns you have expressed?
  (Ms Marlow) When the NICE guidance comes out about a particular technology a number of parties have been involved in developing that and advising NICE. Some parties have relationships with other organisations, for example, the pharmaceutical industry. It would help the openness and robustness of the process if things were openly declared in the final guidance which comes out because it is not made public in the guidance.

  137. Do you have a view that these conflicts of interest are perhaps shaping some of the decisions which are being made or affecting them in some way? Can you be more explicit?
  (Ms Marlow) I have no evidence to suggest whether they are or they are not but there is a whole move towards openness, corporate governance and integrity, both within the medical journals and within the NHS, and it would help improve confidence in NICE if that were followed through in that way.

  138. Do any of the other witnesses have any thoughts on this specific point or share the concerns of Ms Marlow on the question of conflict of interest and making clearer any interests which do exist?
  (Dr Cunningham) I have a comment about the independence of NICE but it does not actually relate to conflicts of interest particularly.

  139. I am more concerned about that at the moment.
  (Dr Crayford) No.
  (Dr Walker) No.

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