Stop the Saatchi Bill

Driven by an extraordinary two-year PR campaign on social media and a supportive newspaper partner, this all started as Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, metamorphosed through several versions, and was resurrected under a new name by Chris Heaton-Harris, before finally clearing its last hurdle in the Lords this week to become the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Act. Pretty much the only thing they share is the word 'Innovation' in the title.

One day, it may be possible for politicians to ask the people who actually work in the medical field: what are the problems you face, and how can we help you overcome them?

One day, politicians may actually listen to the answers they receive, and thus try to tackle genuine problems rather than imagined ones.

One day, politicians, medics, researchers, lawyers, patient groups, charities, and the public, may work together to overcome the barriers to the development and provision of new treatments.

But it is not this day.

Read more: Not this day

Saatchi Bill Goes Through The Lords for First Reading

The Telegraph reports that the Medical Innovation Bill has ‘passed its first hurdle’ in the Lords and is a ‘step closer to becoming law’.

And as such, now is the time to launch our campaign website to oppose the Bill as it stands.

The first reading in the Lords is just a formality. There would be no debate – those are to come. This website intends to help ensure that debate is full, frank and informed.

What is deeply worrying is how supporters of the Bill appear to be consistently misleading about what is in the Bill. Their aims for the Bill are not reflected in the text. The Telegraph article is happily reporting the PR straight from the campaign team without apparently checking for the accuracy of what they are saying.

For example, the Telegraph says,

Any experimental procedures would be approved in advance by a multidisciplinary team of specialists and a “responsible officer”, it stipulates.

This is not true. The Bill only demands that the doctor consult with “any relevant multi-disciplinary team”. This is a long way from demanding compulsory approval from such a team.

Similarly, the article says,

Under the new bill, a body of medical experts would decide before the treatment so that the doctor was not left wondering if he or she might appear in court.

Again, we would ask the Saatchi Bill team to tell us where in the Bill where this decision is made mandatory.

The consistent misrepresentation of the Bill by supporters is deeply alarming. On the radio and TV today on several occasions, Peter Walsh, Chief Exec of Action against Medical Accidents, has been doing a fantastic job of challenging the errors being made by those who support the Bill. These myths have been repeatedly pointed out but they persist. If the true intentions of the Bill writers are to ensure that there are mandatory checks on doctors, then they have been incompetent. The alternatives to this are too troublesome to contemplate.

There are many problems with the Bill, not least that its proponents have failed to produce any reasonable evidence that the Bill is required in the first place. After the consultation, where so many professional bodies, doctors and lawyers pointed out the fundamental risks with the Bill, the redraft has done virtually nothing to mitigate those risks and correct the problems. Some minor provisions have been proposed, such as the creation of a register of treatments, but this is not on the Bill and we must trust that the committee stages put this in place properly.

Given the weakness of the Bill, its dangers and risks to patients, it is vital that both Houses now scrutinise this Bill thoroughly and demand appropriate changes or even kick it out if it is found there is no need for it.

This is why this website exists. So that it may act as a forum for all who are concerned. To act as a catalyst to action where people can inform their MPs about their concerns and ask them to take interest in the passage of this Bill.

Please sign up to email updates. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and keep your MP informed of what is going on. It is vital that a bad law that undermines patient protections from quacks and mavericks does not see the light of day.