Leading IVF specialist ignores problems with her charity’s last accounts

  1. There are two serious problems with the last publicly available accounts for a charity controlled and run by a leading IVF specialist. The charity has failed to address the problems after I brought them to its attention. It has also refused to provide the missing information behind one of the problems. All of my dealings with the IVF specialist and her charity have actually been with her PR firm. How the IVF specialist pays the PR firm, and for what exactly, are central to the problems with her charity’s last accounts. Finally, it’s unclear whether the charity actually does anything.
  2. Prof Geeta Nargund is founder and medical director of CREATE Fertility, a chain of private IVF clinics. Prof Nargund and her firm have received a lot of media attention, not least because they are self-styled pioneers of “natural and mild” IVF. But there’s another reason for the high profile: a PR firm promotes Prof Nargund and CREATE Fertility.
  3. In 2000, Prof Nargund set up charity Create Health Foundation – old name: HER Trust (registered charity number: 1082195). There are currently three trustees. Prof Nargund isn’t a trustee; and to date has never been one. Nevertheless Companies House records indicate shes been company secretary to the charitable company since incorporation on 5 January 2000. Further, Prof Nargund is the sole person with significant control”, according to filings there.
  4. The charity’s last publicly available accounts are made up to 31 December 2017. These show Prof Nargund is also chief executive. They further disclose it spent £56 636 on “charitable activities” during the year, while income was £56 736. What were the charitable activities? A “PR campaign”, which “relates to expenditure incurred on fertility education in schools, national tariff for IVF, welfare of women to be included in the HFE act and low-cost IVF”.
  5. As I say, the role of the PR firm is key to the problems with the last accounts. The first problem concerns the related-party transactions, which are disclosed in note 9 in the notes to the financial statements (screen shot in Figure 1). There the disclosure is incomplete. That is, Prof Nargund’s commercial company, Create Health Limited (registered company number: 04103133), is identified as a related party to the charity. Yet, despite its title, note 9 fails to show the related-party transactions between Create Health Limited and Create Health Foundation.

    Figure 1. 2017 accounts: Create Health Foundation

  6. On 13 November 2018, I emailed Prof Nargund via “Beth and Alex” (last names undisclosed), who are identified on the CREATE Fertility website as contact for media queries (screen shot in Figure 2). There I asked the charity to provide the related-party transactions – all of them – between Create Health Limited and Create Health Foundation. Not receiving a response, I sent a second email. This time “Beth” acknowledged receipt. But she didn’t supply the related-party transactions between the two entities, despite further emails.

    Figure 2. Media queries: CREATE Fertility website at 13 November 2018

  7. So who are “Beth and Alex”? They’re Beth Farrer and Alex Kane, the two directors of PR firm Farrer Kane Limited (registered company number: 08121122). The two are presumably married: Beth Farrer is Beth Kane at Companies House. She appears as Beth Farrer on the Farrer Kane website, though.
  8. How did I identify “Beth and Alex”, and their company, given the charity’s last accounts don’t refer to either the directors or Farrer Kane? Well, the last accounts for Create Health Limited, made up to 31 March 2018, disclose related-party transactions with the charity: “Create Health Limited made payments to Farrer Kane PR company on behalf of Create Health Foundation of £56 682 (2017: £39 600).” Yet the charity’s last accounts merely identify Create Health Limited as a related party, without disclosing the relevant transactions. Why?
  9. On 28 May 2014, Farrer Kane announced on its website that CREATE Fertility had appointed it “to run its media relations activity in the UK” (screen shot in Figure 3). Thus Farrer Kane has been promoting Prof Nargund’s commercial company for nearly five years.

    Figure 3. “Farrer Kane wins media relations account for pioneering fertility clinic”: Farrer Kane website dated 28 May 2014

  10. In 2017, Prof Nargund launched her abc ivf clinic, which offers low-cost IVF treatment – slogan: “The affordable IVF experts”. Based in Harley Street, central London, abc ivf is also a client of Farrer Kane (screen shot in Figure 4). On 5 February 2019, the Daily Mail newspaper, as page 3 lead, reported a couple’s success having a baby with abc ivf (“Our cut-price cutie”). But the publicity didn’t stop there. The Mail that day even praised abc ivf in an editorial, too.

    Figure 4. abc ivf is Farrer Kane client: Farrer Kane tweet on 7 June 2018

  11. Remember Create Health Foundation’s 2017 “PR campaign”, organised by Farrer Kane, included “low-cost IVF”. At the same time the PR firm is also promoting Prof Nargund’s low-cost IVF brand, abc ivf. This raises the legitimate question of the extent of the overlap, if any, between Farrer Kane’s work for the IVF specialist’s charity and that for her commercial activities. Charity law requires charities to have only charitable purposes, which must be for the public benefit. A charity must not provide private benefit to anyone, unless the private benefit is incidental.
  12. Then there’s the second problem with Create Health Foundation’s last accounts. They don’t contain an independent examiner’s report to the trustees. An independent examiner is the external person who scrutinises a charity’s accounts. Thus the process of independent examination is essential for public trust and confidence. In January 2019, I twice asked the charity, via Ms Farrer, to explain the omission. No one responded to my emails.
  13. One last thing. For at least two reasons, it’s unclear whether Create Health Foundation actually does anything. First, the trustees write in their latest annual report with the 2017 accounts: “Activity within the charity has been minimal during the year.” What’s more, the same sentence appears in both the 2016 and 2015 trustees’ annual reports! Second, the charity website is very out of date: it still bears the old name, HER Trust (screen shot in Figure 5). The name was changed on 10 May 2013, according to Companies House records. In fact, the website notes the change of name (without a date), saying: “a new website and relaunch are coming soon”. That’s almost six years ago!

    Figure 5. Create Health Foundation homepage at 20 March 2019

  14. When asked for comment, a spokesperson for regulator the Charity Commission said in a written statement: “As regulator, we want charities to inspire trust. This includes providing clear information so the public can easily see how a charity is delivering on the good cause they serve. We are aware of concerns regarding Create Health Foundation’s accounts. We will be contacting the trustees to determine our next regulatory steps.”
Advertisements

Quintessentially Foundation spent £2.15m in 2017 – but just £1.12m (51.9 per cent) went to other charities

  1. Quintessentially Foundation (QF), a high-profile grant-making charity that supports other charities only, spent £2.15m in 2017 – but just £1.12m (51.9 per cent) went to other charities. 2017 is the most recent year for which accounts are publicly available. Performance was much better the previous year, however: total spend was £1.95m, of which £1.57m (an impressive 80.2 per cent) reached other charities. Despite the precipitous fall in the proportion going to other charities, QF appears to say in the 2017 trustees’ annual report that the proportion stayed the same between 2016 and 2017.
  2. Business person Ben Elliot is founder and chair of QF (registered charity number: 1144584). On 31 December 2018, environment secretary Michael Gove appointed Mr Elliot as a new “food surplus and waste champion”, an unpaid role, to help drive forward the government’s plans to cut food waste. The government press release refers to Mr Elliot as a “philanthropist” and gushes about his charity. QF has raised £13m to date, says the government (screen shot in Figure 1). Or it’s £12m, according to the charity website (screen shot in Figure 2). What’s a million among friends?

    Figure 1. “Gove appoints food waste champion”: government press release on 31 December 2018

    Figure 2. Quintessentially Foundation homepage at 16 February 2019

  3. QF is a grant-making charity, making grants to other charities only (not individuals). The 2017 trustees’ annual report, p.2, is clear: “The principal purpose of the charity is to establish a trust fund that provides grants and donations to UK-registered charities as the trustees, in their absolute discretion, shall think fit.”
  4. In 2016, QF donated £1 567 192 (£1.57m) to other charities, while total expenditure was £1 953 476 (£1.95m). So grants made to other charities represent 80.2 per cent of total spend. In 2017, meanwhile, QF donated £1 117 256 (£1.12m) to other charities, while total expenditure was £2 151 345 (£2.15m). So grants made to other charities represent 51.9 per cent of total spend.
  5. The 2017 trustees’ annual report, p.4, para “Financial position”, says: “The charity had a successful year fundraising and are pleased to have maintainied [sic] the percentage of funds donated onto other charities.” (screen shot in Figure 3) That statement appears to be inaccurate, so I asked QF for comment.

    Figure 3. 2017 trustees’ annual report: Quintessentially Foundation

  6. The trustees said in an email: “We recognise that the reference to ‘percentage’ in the sentence you cited may not entirely be entirely clear, so we appreciate the opportunity to clarify this for you. Once the charity has raised funds, net of the costs of raising those funds the charity has three options in terms of those net proceeds: 1. Retain the funds; 2. Make grants direct to beneficiaries; and 3. Make donations to suitably vetted charities.” They added: “In both 2016 and 2017 the overwhelming majority of the distributed funds was in favour of other charities. This is what is meant by the reference to maintaining ‘the percentage of funds donated onto other charities’.”
  7. I told QF in an email I thought its clarification was laughable for at least three reasons.
  8. First, the preceding sentence in the 2017 trustees’ annual report to the one I quoted states that of total expenditure in 2017, the charity donated £1 117 256 (£1.12m) to other charities (Figure 3). Thus my interpretation of the quote as proportion of total spend is plausible. As ever, others can make up their own minds.
  9. Second, the public isn’t only interested in what a charity spends on charitable activities. It also wants to know how much of total expenditure goes on charitable activities. The proportion is one indication of how efficient a charity is. This is another reason my interpretation of the quote as proportion of total spend is plausible.
  10. Third, QF is a grant-making charity. As such, then, it’s ridiculous to claim the quote refers to the fact that “in both 2016 and 2017 the overwhelming majority of the distributed funds was in favour of other charities.” That fact is self-evident given the charity’s business model. That’s what it does each year: make grants to other charities!
  11. Only 51.9 per cent (going to other charities) is a disappointing figure that deserves scrutiny. Does QF agree 51.9 per cent is disappointing?
  12. The trustees answered in an email: “Because of the timing of when certain significant fundraising costs were incurred in 2016 and 2017, our efficiency according to your measure was unduly flattered in 2016 while the reverse was true in 2017. There has simply been no growth in inefficiency of our organisation in the past year. Quite the contrary: we believe we continue to outperform the industry.”
  13. Nevertheless the 2016 trustees’ annual report trumpeted the proportion going to other charities, emphasising it had gone up. There QF wrote: “The charity had a successful year fundraising and are pleased to have INCREASED [my emphasis] the percentage of funds donated onto other charities.” (screen shot in Figure 4) Sound familiar? Yes, QF used the same sentence in the 2017 trustees’ annual report, substituting “maintained” for “increased”!

    Figure 4. 2016 trustees’ annual report: Quintessentially Foundation

  14. Oh, one last thing. Don’t expect any scrutiny of QF and its claims – or Mr Elliot – in the Daily Mail. Geordie Greig, the newspaper’s editor, has been a trustee of QF since 27 January 2016.

Mail columnist David “Bumble” Lloyd plugs optician, without disclosure of interest

  1. What do David “Bumble” Lloyd and Fiona Phillips have in common? Both are broadcasters who write columns for national newspapers. But there’s something else as well. Both have plugged well-known optician Specsavers in their columns, without disclosure of interest.
  2. On 25 April 2018, I exclusively revealed that Ms Phillips has used her Daily Mirror column more than once to promote Specsavers, without disclosure of interest. Private Eye magazine reported my findings, too (see 3 May 2018 post).
  3. Cricket broadcaster Mr Lloyd has a column in the Daily Mail (“Bumble at the Test”). On 1 September 2018, he wrote about the England v India fourth Test. Under the headline “Star-studded specs”, a “story” began: “I needed a new set of bins… and up pop Specsavers. I now have five pairs, one for each day of the Test – and very natty they are too.” However, the former international cricketer failed to mention his commercial relationship with the optician. (Daily Mail 1 Sep 2018 p118)(Daily Mail 1 Sep 2018 p119)
  4. Mr Lloyd is at it on his personal Twitter account, too. On 13 August 2018, for example, he tweeted about a Specsavers competition to win the “ultimate cricket experience”, one involving a chat with him at lunch during the upcoming fifth Test (screen shot in Figure 1). As you can see, again he didn’t make clear that he’s paid to plug the optician.

    Figure 1. David “Bumble” Lloyd plugs Specsavers on Twitter, without disclosure of interest

  5. Specsavers confirmed the commercial relationship in an email. It pays Mr Lloyd to promote “the importance of good eyesight in sport, as part of our relationship with Test match cricket”. (Specsavers is the official Test partner of the England cricket team.)
  6. So it’s not only the Daily Mirror that allows high-profile columnists to plug products and services, without disclosure of interest. The Daily Mail does, too.

UK Direct Shop Ltd can’t name the celebrities who supposedly use its bracelet

  1. Today (25 April 2018) the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) listed UK Direct Shop Ltd on its website as one of 43 “informally resolved” cases this week. This was after my complaint to the advertising regulator about the company’s ad that appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper on 21 February 2018.
  2. The ad was for the “Bio-Mag Therapy Bracelet”. (Daily Mail 21 Feb 2018) I first wrote about UK Direct Shop Ltd and its bracelet on 9 May 2017, when I pointed out that there was no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register. There still isn’t.
  3. As you can see, the ad proclaims: “As used by celebrities!” It also states: “Even well-known celebrities are wearing them.”
  4. I asked UK Direct Shop in an email to tell me which celebrities use its bracelet. In its reply the advertiser didn’t name any celebrities. UK Direct Shop wrote: “Unfortunately I am unable to disclose the names of any celebrities that use the Bio Mag Therapy Bracelet. This is due to the fact that the bracelet is a health product, and as such the celebrities that use the product do not wish to be identified as this would indicate that they are suffering from a health problem themselves. One of the key features of the bracelet is that it is discreet, this is a key reason why people that are in the public eye use this product as they do not wish to be seen as having health problems.”
  5. The advertiser’s answer is unacceptable. It should be able to substantiate its claims about celebrities using the product.
  6. The ASA agreed. On 12 April 2018, it told me in an email: “We contacted the advertiser, and they were unable to substantiate the claim concerning celebrities. They have agreed to remove the claim from their future advertising unless they are able to evidence it.”

National newspaper follow-ups of my Jeremy Hunt exposé

  1. Today (14 April 2018) the rest of the national press have followed up yesterday’s Daily Telegraph front-page exclusive on health secretary Jeremy Hunt for which I was source (see previous post).
  2. Here I highlight two reports, where the journalists quoted me, after bothering to speak to me and ask questions. Proper journalism, then.
  3. I told the Daily Mail I was disappointed Mr Hunt simply blamed his accountant for the failures I identified (Daily Mail 14 April 2018).
  4. The Guardian, meanwhile, reported my comments about the lack of scrutiny at Companies House. It seems Companies House is open to potential abuse. Why didn’t it pick up the glaring errors in the details for Mr Hunt’s company? (Guardian 14 April 2018).

TV doctor Xand van Tulleken plugs blood testing company, without disclosure of interest

  1. Dr Xand van Tulleken, a high-profile media doctor, is everywhere at the moment, including Channel 4, presenting TV show, “How to Lose Weight Well”. Naturally, there’s a “best-selling” book with the series. At the start of the year, the Daily Mail newspaper published Dr Xand‘s “Definitive Diet” in a separate pull-out section, based on the new book. He’s a busy man, then – and that doesn’t include the TV programmes he presents with identical twin brother, Dr Chris. The twin doctors‘ programmes together include “Operation Ouch!”, a BAFTA-award-winning medical show on Children’s BBC.
  2. On 3 April 2018, Dr Xand issued health advice in an article in the Daily Mirror newspaper, “The six reasons you can’t stop feeling tired: Dr Xand‘s must-read guide”. There he plugged consumer blood testing company Werlabs, without disclosure of interest.
  3. Dr Xand is an “ambassador” for Werlabs, according to his Twitter biography (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. Dr Xand van Tulleken on Twitter at 3 April 2018

  4. On the same day, Dr Xand also tweeted a link to his Mirror article online (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Dr Xand van Tulleken tweets link to his Mirror article online (3 April 2018)

  5. It‘s bad enough for a doctor to plug medical products and services (for a discussion of this point, see 3 April 2017 post). It’s even worse if he/she does so, without disclosure of interest.
  6. Then there’s a second problem with Dr Xand promoting Werlabs: he describes himself as “BBC Doctor” on the Werlabs website (screen shot in Figure 3). Yet the BBC Editorial Guidelines are clear: “… it is essential that promotional activities do not undermine the integrity of the BBC, the presenter or the programmes with which they are associated.” (section 15.4.31)

    Figure 3. “BBC Doctor” Dr Xand van Tulleken on Werlabs website at 3 April 2018

  7. Thus it’s simply inappropriate for Dr Xand to plug Werlabs, given his role as a BBC presenter.
  8. Further, by describing himself as BBC Doctor” on the firm’s website, Dr Xand creates the impression that there’s an association between the BBC and Werlabs. But, again, the BBC Editorial Guidelines are clear on this point: “Advertisements or promotions undertaken by presenters must not in any way suggest BBC endorsement, undermine the BBC’s values, bring the BBC into disrepute, or give the public reason to doubt the objectivity of BBC presenters.” (section 15.4.33)
  9. Regular readers will know that Dr Xand isn’t the first high-profile media doctor to plug medical products and services, without disclosure of interest. Far from it. He joins the growing list that includes Dr Hilary Jones (see 3 April 2017 post) and Dr Louise Newson (see 10 October 2017 and 21 February 2018 posts). Unlike those two, though, Dr Xand responded fully and promptly – on the same day, in fact – when I requested a comment.
  10. About the Mirror article, Dr Xand said in an email: “I agree that disclosure of interests is extremely important. I make no secret of my connection to Werlabs. I’m delighted to be their ambassador: they’re a fantastic company, benefiting both the NHS and their customers. Nonetheless I completely agree that my relationship with them should have been in the article itself. I’ll make sure it is if the situation arises again. I will ask the Mirror to change the online text – that isn’t within my control but I can ask.”
  11. And on appearing as BBC Doctor” on the Werlabs website, Dr Xand added in the same email: “I didn’t realize that I was described that way on the Werlabs website. It is not only inappropriate, as you suggest, but but [sic] it doesn’t correctly describe my relationship with the BBC. I will ask them to alter it at once and I’m very grateful to you for pointing it out.”

Daily Mail blurs the separation between editorial and advertising

  1. On 16 March 2018, the Daily Mail newspaper reported comments by Andrea McLean, the TV presenter, about the menopause. In particular, Ms McLean suggested “M” badges for women experiencing the menopause (“TV’s Loose Woman: Give us ‘M’ badges… so everyone knows we’re menopausal!”) (Daily Mail 16 Mar 2018).
  2. A rather controversial suggestion that attracted publicity. Even the BBC news website picked it up, for example (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43429713). But there was something else that struck me about the Daily Mail report: its final sentence. It said: The former model has teamed up with clothing company Become to create underwear for women going through the menopause.” In other words, the newspaper “reported” that the TV presenter was plugging a menopause-related clothing firm – and duly identified it. (The BBC report, meanwhile, said nothing about the clothing company.)
  3. Thus we might understand why Ms McLean said something so outlandish to the newspaper: to publicise the clothing company, which is presumably paying her.
  4. But here my focus is the Daily Mail. The report risks undermining the newspaper’s editorial integrity. It wasn’t actually a report, but an ad. A hidden ad presented as editorial. How misleading and dishonest.
  5. At date of publication Susie Coen, the reporter who wrote the article, hasn’t responded to a request for comment. As you can see, Ms Coen is “showbusiness” reporter.