- In September 2018, Roche Products Ltd published online a publicly accessible report, “The NHS at 100”. (nhs100.co.uk) There at the NHS’s 70th anniversary the pharma company surveyed public opinion about how the health service in England might change to ensure it remains effective in 30 years’ time. Prof Tony Young wrote the foreword to the report – in his capacity as National Clinical Lead for Innovation at NHS England.
- This tie-up between NHS England and Roche Products Ltd is problematic for at least five reasons.
- First, I’m surprised Prof Young attached his name and that of NHS England to a pharma company’s report about the NHS. The report is promotional material for Roche Products Ltd. So why is he and his organisation helping to market the drugs firm?
- Second, it’s unclear whether Roche Products Ltd paid Prof Young to write the foreword.
- Third, Roche Products Ltd is currently lobbying the government, according to the latest lobbyist register, for 1 September 2018-30 November 2018, at the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) website. Roche Products Ltd is actually using TWO political lobbying firms, Hanover Communications and MHP Communications. Another reason, therefore, it’s surely inappropriate for Prof Young and his organisation to be working with the drugs firm: it’s lobbying the government.
- Fourth, I came across the report when it was mentioned at the end of a newspaper article about broadcaster Cherry Healey and her health. It was in the Daily Mirror on 15 January 2019. (Daily Mirror 15 Jan 2019) The article said Ms Healey is “supporting” Roche Products Ltd’s report. That’s all. However, the pharma company has confirmed to me it’s paying Ms Healey to promote the report. Thus a trusted broadcaster is plugging Roche Products Ltd, without disclosure of interest. Again, I’m surprised Prof Young attached his name and that of NHS England to a firm that misleads the public (newspaper readers) this way.
- Fifth, Ms Healey’s Mirror article was problematic for another reason. There she talked about Push Doctor by name, praising it. Push Doctor, meanwhile, has told me it doesn’t have a commercial relationship with the TV presenter. I don’t know whether it’s telling the truth. I hope so. Nevertheless her mentioning the tech start-up company is still problematic because there was simply no need for her to do so, in isolation. She didn’t refer to any of its rivals. Like Roche Products Ltd, Push Doctor, too, is currently lobbying the government, the latest lobbyist register shows. (PLMR is acting for the tech company.) Ms Healey chose, for whatever reason, to highlight Push Doctor while at the same time promoting “The NHS at 100” report. Therefore, the broadcaster linked Prof Young and NHS England’s project with Roche Products Ltd to another commercial company, Push Doctor. So why are he and his organisation helping, if indirectly, to market Push Doctor as well?
- Prof Young didn’t respond to requests for comment. Separately, NHS England acknowledged receipt of my request for comment, and asked for the link to the “The NHS at 100” report. Yet the organisation failed to provide a statement.