Examination of Witnesses (Questions 135
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2002
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
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
139. I am more concerned about that at the moment.
(Dr Crayford) No.
(Dr Walker) No.