Dr Finola ONeill explains Tory links to firm ‘using NHS patients to trial its product for free’ despite failure rate of up to 76%
Devon GP Dr Finola ONeill BACantab MBBS MRCP MRCGP responded to media claims that a new cancer test ‘could help save thousands of lives by speeding up diagnosis’ by pointing to the Tory links of the US firm behind the testing – and the reported failings of the process it is testing, for free, on NHS patients – including its 76% failure rate for early-stage cancers:
This is the US private company David Cameron is paid adviser to, and Rishi Sunak was over visiting during the December 2021 omicron epidemic when he was chancellor and hospitality was collapsing.
(Tell me why the chancellor not the health secretary was visiting a company using NHS patients to trial its product for free. I tell you why. because this is about money not health).
And through which patients were recruited using the NHS App as a pilot to see how the App could be used to recruit for trials.
This test, from the information given, does not look particularly useful as a screening test. We are told it correctly reveals cancer only in 2/3 cases and tends to be more accurate only for advanced disease; obviously we need tests that detect cancer early to enable curative treatment.
Certainly there is no justification to be expanding this out to a million people.
My concerns are that this is driven by a private healthcare company that has accessed NHS patients through dubious political connections.
Go look at their website. The test is available in the US and people can get their healthcare providers to request it; anyone in the US can book the test online through a teleservice.
So why are they trying to test it and develop it here? Clearly because they can’t get enough uptake in the US on the tests own merits and because our population is accessible through dubious politicians for financial gain.
Where is the ethics in all this?
For any test the risks have to be considered and the costs of all this.
The 1/3 of people who test positive and don’t have cancer have the anxiety associated and any risks of tests undergone plus the economic costs of all the additional tests.
If one million people undergo all this testing, with questionable benefit (certainly beneficial outcomes have not been confirmed and the information given doesn’t impress) how much is this costing in anxiety and harm to patients and costs of investigating people without any cancer.
Why is the NHS, therefore the tax payer, essentially funding the development of a new test for a private US company (for whom Cameron was paid adviser)? which so far doesn’t obviously meet the standards required for a medical screening test in terms of risk/benefit analysis, accuracy or change in outcome (there is no point in a test that mainly identifies late stage, incurable cancer if outcomes are not actually improved).
These are the things that should be being analysed.
This is what happens when you mix politicians, private companies, NHS patients and a lack of oversight.
Someone high up in medical ethics please take a close look. Ditto BMA.
‘Overall the test…correctly revealed cancer 66% of the time, researchers found.Dr Finola ONeill, used with permission
The accuracy of the test was also dependent on the stage of the cancer – ranging from 24% for very early-stage (stage I) tumours, to 95% for advanced disease (stage IV).’
Tory privatisation of the NHS is subject to even less scrutiny since the Health and Care Act 2022 – and tragically for our NHS, Keir Starmer and his health sidekick Wes Streeting are both committed to even further use of private companies. The consequences of the involvement of private corporations in healthcare are clear: profits taken mean less treatment per pound spent, while services are fragmented and patients are put at risk.
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