Senior NHS England clinician plugs pharma company – in his NHS England role

  1. In September 2018, Roche Products Ltd published online a publicly accessible report, “The NHS at 100”. ( 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.
  2. This tie-up between NHS England and Roche Products Ltd is problematic for at least five reasons.
  3. 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?
  4. Second, it’s unclear whether Roche Products Ltd paid Prof Young to write the foreword.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?
  8. 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.

Hidden ads for Slimming World in the Daily Mirror

  1. As I said in my previous post, the Daily Mirror regularly plugs Slimming World in editorial, without disclosure of interest. There’s a longstanding commercial relationship between the newspaper and the weight loss organisation.
  2. I also mentioned the Mirror sometimes even slaps the Slimming World logo on such articles. Here’s an example from today’s (24 January 2019) paper: daily mirror 24 jan 2019.

Mirror chief sports writer promotes boozing and gambling

  1. On 20 December 2018, Andy Dunn, chief sports writer at the Mirror, told readers how he intended spending Boxing Day, as his contribution to the newspaper’s “What Christmas means to me” series. (daily mirror 20 dec 2018) He’ll meet “the lads” for a “couple of pints”, he said, before betting on “the nags” at Kempton. Then they’ll watch Andy’s local football team, Crewe Alexandra. Finally, he’ll rush home “for a night in front of the telly with the family”. His last sentence was a warning, however: “Oh, and don’t forget, drink and gamble responsibly.” How sensible – but I can’t help wonder at the advisability of gambling under the influence of alcohol.
  2. At the start of the new year, meanwhile, Andy was again promoting gambling, this time a specific company. On 5 January 2019, he shared his Footie5 FA Cup predictions. (daily mirror 5 jan 2019 p66) Footie5 is a new game from The Football Pools Limited, which trades as The Pools. Worse, his plugging of Footie5 was in editorial, not advertising. As you can see, there was no indication it was an ad or, sorry, “paid content”.
  3. Like other newspapers, the Mirror’s sports pages are plastered with gambling ads. But the Mirror goes further: gambling firm William Hill notoriously sponsors football pundit Robbie Savage’s column on Saturday, for example. It’s a new low, though, when the chief sports writer plugs a gambling company in editorial.
  4. Unfortunately, hidden advertising isn’t restricted to the paper’s sports pages. The Mirror has a longstanding commercial relationship with Slimming World, for instance, continuing to run promotions and giveaways for the weight loss organisation. At the same time it also regularly reports on individuals who’ve apparently shed weight on the programme, always explicitly identifying the firm. Such articles – with the obligatory “before” and “after” photos – sometimes even bear the Slimming World logo, but again aren’t labelled as ads.
  5. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the Mirror’s high-profile columnists who plug firms, without disclosure of interest: Fiona Phillips (see 25 April 2018 post) and Heather Mills (see 16 November 2018 post). Ms Mills, in particular, can’t stop (see 13 December 2018 post). Indeed, she was yet again blatantly promoting her vegan food business, VBites, in her latest column on 10 January 2019. (daily mirror 10 jan 2019)

Shameless Mirror columnist Heather Mills continues to plug health food chain, without disclosure of interest

  1. On 13 December 2018, Heather Mills turned her attention to homeopathy in her latest “Live healthy with Heather” column for the Daily Mirror newspaper. (Daily Mirror 13 Dec 2018) There she again plugged Holland & Barrett, without disclosure of interest.
  2. Ms Mills had promoted the health food chain in the same underhand way in her first column, as I revealed on 16 November 2018. Private Eye magazine reported my Heather Mills exposé (see 29 November 2018 and 1 December 2018 posts).

“Mum-of-three” plugs Cambridge Weight Plan in the Mirror, without disclosure of interest

  1. On 12 December 2018, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported the case of “mum-of-three” Fiona Ednie, who “dropped six dress sizes” – thanks, apparently, to the Cambridge Weight Plan. (Daily Mirror 12 Dec 2018)
  2. Under the headline My life was saved by a Christmas jumper”, the Mirror describes the “mum” as a “charity boss, from Glasgow”.
  3. Nevertheless the newspaper omitted to mention a relevant fact: Ms Ednie works for Cambridge Weight Plan. She’s one of its so-called consultants – individuals who help local people wanting to lose weight with the Cambridge Weight Plan. Here’s Ms Ednie‘s consultant profile on the weight loss organisation‘s website:
  4. Ms Ednie isn’t independent of Cambridge Weight Plan. Therefore, the Mirror misled its readers by failing to disclose that she works for the firm.

Private Eye belatedly credits me for Heather Mills exposé

  1. You might notice that Private Eye failed to credit me when it used my Heather Mills exposé in the latest issue of the magazine (see previous post). I was disappointed and surprised. Hitherto the Eye has always credited me, rightly, whenever it’s used any of my work.
  2. Well, Private Eye has apologised and now names me in the online version of its article (screen shot in Figure 1). On publication of each issue of the fortnightly magazine, the Eye also posts a small selection of stories therein on its website as a taster.

    Figure 1. Private Eye credits me for Heather Mills story in latest Street of Shame (Eye 1484): online version of article at 1 December 2018

  3. As usual, the article will only be available on the Eye website until next issue. Catch it while you can.

Private Eye reports Heather Mills exposé

  1. The current issue of Private Eye (1484) reports my Heather Mills exposé (see 16 November 2018 post).
  2. Private Eye is the UK’s number one best-selling news and current affairs magazine.
  3. You won’t find the report – or much else from the magazine – on the Eye website because the online presence is minimal. Here’s a scanned copy of the page from my subscription copy – see middle column: Private Eye 1484.