Simon Wessely in UK's Yorkshire Post

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by Bluebottle, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. Bluebottle

    Bluebottle New Member

    Simon Wessely in Yorkshire Post
    (from the Hummingbirds's guide to M.E. these are two of his jobs they have left out:
    "Wessely is a member of the supervisory board of a company named PRISMA. This same company is being paid many millions of pounds to supply ‘rehabilitation’ programs (such as CBT and GET) to the NHS for use on ‘CFS’ patients (Mar 2004, [Online]). Wessely is also an officer of UNUM (large insurance company)."

    letters to the editor in response should be sent

    (comments can be left if you register)

    Professor on the frontline in fight to explain our casualties of war

    22 June 2009
    By Sheena Hastings
    IT'S always fascinating, asking doctors about why, with so many disciplines to choose from, they selected their particular field and whether each discipline creates its own stereotype.

    Simon Wessely says he got "the Dr Kildare stuff" out of his system early on in his medical training and, because he had been taught psychiatry inspiringly at Oxford, began looking seriously at the subject quite early on. "I found some other areas, like surgery, a bit less thoughtful, and psychiatrists were the kind of people who were interesting to sit next to on a train."

    He was also influenced to some degree by the work of the late Prof Anthony Clare, who increased popular understanding of the science through his penetrating BBC Radio 4 programme In the Psychiatrist's Chair.

    Nearly 30 years into his career, with many different jobs, books and around 500 published academic papers behind him, the direction of Prof Wessely's work has increasingly moved towards the field of illnesses with unexplained symptoms, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ME), and the occupational exposures and health of armed forces.

    Based for many years at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, he is an internationally renowned expert and Government adviser on Gulf War illnesses, more commonly called Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). He's also director of the King's Centre for Military Health Research, and his team's work has directly influenced policy regarding the health of British armed forces.

    "I've never made a secret of the fact that I greatly admire our armed services and feel we don't value them enough. Those feelings have no doubt been influenced by my father's background." As a teenager his dad travelled alone on the Kindertransport from Prague to Britain to escape the Nazis. He was fostered then adopted by a family in Cottingham, near Hull and went on to serve in the Royal Navy before becoming a teacher.

    Prof Wessely and colleagues opened the first solely NHS clinic dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome back in the early 1990s. Not long afterwards, he began to notice reports of a growing number of soldiers and others who had served in the Gulf War suffering from illnesses with the same kind of symptoms as many of the CFS patients. The symptoms were wide-ranging but included bone and joint pains, listlessness, depression, poor concentration and rashes.

    "No-one could fathom what was wrong," says Prof Wessely, who's in Yorkshire to give a lecture to the Leeds Institute of Health Sciences at Leeds University when we meet.

    "There was increasing media clamour, but no-one was doing anything much about it apart from individual doctors studying individual patients. What was needed was a population study – research comparing a large group of armed services personnel who'd served in the Gulf with personnel who'd served somewhere else. The second group we chose had served in a peace-keeping role in Bosnia from 1992 onwards."

    For several years, funding couldn't be found for the study, but the Pentagon finally came forward. "The Americans are, in general, quicker off the mark and more attuned to the problems of military veterans. It's a bigger political issue over there. The Government also has to take better care of veterans because they
    don't have a universal healthcare system like ours."

    Wessely's research revealed that something was definitely going on among the British patients that was linked to having served in the Gulf, but he (and now other experts) agree that while all of the illnesses were real, no unique collection of symptoms that could be called a "syndrome" was identifiable.

    The study also concluded that serving in the Gulf had worsened the general health of military personnel, although it had not increased the incidence of cancer. The death rate amongst forces serving in the Gulf was the same as those who had served in Bosnia.

    There were three obvious potential "villains" that could have been responsible for the illnesses. Wessely says research revealed that the symptoms were not caused by the depleted uranium or pesticides the military had been exposed to, but there was an apparent link to inoculations given against the effects of biological or chemical warfare.

    "Those who were sickest appeared to be more likely to have had the anthrax vaccine, but this was contentious and inconclusive because of a lack of records kept by the military. To this day the issue is inconclusive, because records were not kept and the right studies were not done early on.

    "We've been successful in saying what didn't cause Gulf War illnesses, but no-one has been able to point definitively to what did, and the focus is now shifting towards what we can do to help those who continue to suffer. I'm somewhat pessimistic that we will ever unravel the causes of GWS."

    It's thought that around 20 per cent of those who served in the Gulf suffered illness to a greater or lesser degree. Those with GWS are entitled to a war pension ("and quite right, too" says Wessely), but veterans' groups would like the Government to take responsibility and pay compensation.

    Research on the health of military personnel involved in the Gulf War provided valuable pointers as to how to do things better in subsequent conflicts, says the professor. "In 2003 came the invasion of Iraq and this time lessons had been learned about how health surveillance of the armed forces had been badly managed in the previous Gulf War.

    "This time the forces carried out health surveillance from day one, so that if anything was spotted going wrong they could try and sort it out there and then."

    Depleted uranium, pesticides and anthrax vaccine are still used in theatres of war. Wessely and colleagues have randomly selected a group of 8,000 from British forces involved in the recent Iraq War and collected health data to follow their physical and psychological health. They're looking at everything, including the incidence of mysterious multi-symptom conditions, and comparing the data to a group of military personnel who have not served in Iraq.

    The research has been funded by the Government but is, Wessely insists, completely independent of the Ministry of Defence.

    "We'll publish everything we find, even the stuff they'll find embarrassing." The study is ongoing, but a major report based on the research is due to be published later this year, with "data so far showing no new 'Iraq War Syndrome'."

    Although Iraq veterans' mental health was shown to be "surprisingly good," reservists had experienced increased incidence of mental health problems compared to regulars. This is linked, says Wessely, to a less satisfying experience of how they are deployed, how long they serve and the kind of help they are offered on their return from war.

    Previously they were not offered dedicated and specialist military mental health services, but since the research they are now deployed differently and offered the same health services as regular forces on their return.

    Prof Wessely has also been involved in recent moves to train military personnel in peer support, as a way of lessening the number of mental health problems.

    Most sergeant majors in the Royal Marines have now had mental health awareness courses, or "trauma management".

    "Soldiers are very macho, it's part of their resilience, but the strength that makes them a good soldier can make them a bad patient.

    "Talking to another soldier about problems is therefore easier than being sent to a psychiatrist, and the message is that it's okay to ask for and get help. It keeps it in the family. The quality of care given to physical casualties in the theatre of war is far better than in the NHS, and second to none. I've seen it.

    "The same can't be said of mental health problems, but the level is improving. As with mental health in general, historically these things have been swept under the carpet, and failure to come forward is still a problem – for all of us, not just the military."

    Prof Wessely is disliked by some CFS sufferers and support groups. "People want biological explanations and treatments, but we have definitely shown the importance of psychological factors," he says. "The people who don't like me are not the thousands of people I have treated over the years. The opinion I care about most comes from my patients and my peers."

    "Expectations of health are now much higher than ever before. We don't have the kind of major worries previous generations suffered, like the possibility of dying of respiratory disease at 33, losing a limb while working in a mill or bombs being dropped on us by the Luftwaffe. We have different things to worry about, and expect a life more or less free from either physical or mental illness. But when we are ill, we're generally more aware and willing to admit to symptoms."

    Except, it seems, where mental health is concerned.


    Prof Simon Wessely MA, BM BCh, MSc, MD, FRCP, FRCPsych, F Med Sci (degrees include a masters in History of Art)

    Age: 52

    Born: Nether Edge, Sheffield

    Education: King Edward VII School, Sheffield; Cambridge, Oxford and The London School of Hygiene

    Current employment: Director, King's Centre for Military Health Research, Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King's College, London; Professor of Epidemiological and Liaison Psychiatry and Head of the Department of Psychological Medicine and also Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at the King's and Maudsley Hospitals; Honorary Civilian Consultant Advisor in psychiatry for the British Army; trustee of the charity Combat Stress

    Family: His wife Clare is a London GP, two teenage sons

    Hobbies: Skiing, cycling (recently did a London-Paris fundraiser in aid of the Royal British Legion), art, history.
  2. quilp

    quilp New Member

    I am delighting in seeing Mr Simon Wessely in the media giving interviews; he's clearly rattled.

    I notice that whilst mentioning the psychological aspect of ME he doesn't mention graded exercise, something which is critical in his 'treatment programmes' for those of us with ME.

    I find it laughable that, despite being funded by the Government, he claims to be independent of it; does anybody really believe that there can't be a conflict of interest here ? Because that is what he's asking you to believe.

    To all those in the USA, be very afraid of this man because he has significant influence over the CDC; your health, your future funding programmes are being stangled by this man's influence. He has placed his whole career on claiming ME to be psychological.

    Please see the interview he has given in the New Scientist ( dot com ). There are over six hundred very angry replies to this interview. Please read what he has to say, and if you can, please leave your comments. For the first time in years we now have some very powerful allies in our corner ( professor Luc Montagnier of France won the nobel prize for medicine )

    Thanks once again Bluebottle. Yorkshire post is one of my local newspapers. I find it interesting that a man of 'his standing' should be giving interviews to a provincal newspaper; the broadsheets don't believe him anymore.

    Kind regards, Mark
  3. cfsgeorge

    cfsgeorge New Member

    Prof Wessely says "The people who don't like me are not the thousands of people I have treated over the years."

    No, it's the millions of people who you haven't "treated". LOL
  4. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    Thank you so much for this post. The information you provided and the way you provided it allowed me to quickly bang off a letter to the editor!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to not only post but to make it so easy for me to respond. You gave me the ammo and the address.


    Many thanks!

  5. Spinetti

    Spinetti New Member

    The full link to the March 13, 2009 Wessely interview that quilp cites is:
  6. Bluebottle

    Bluebottle New Member

    Here's a letter in reply to the article to the editor that ME Free for All's Dr Greensmith has sent. The more letters that are sent, the more likelihood that one will be published:

    Re: Professor on the frontline in fight to explain our casualties of war, Yorkshire Post, 22 June 2009

    "A majority of people suffering with M.E. and military personnel, who returned home chronically ill must regret Professor Simon Wessely's career choice, to move "towards the field of illnesses with unexplained symptoms, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ME), and the occupational exposures and health of armed forces." (Professor on the frontline in fight to explain our casualties of war,Yorkshire Post, 22 June 2009).

    What Professor Wessely has never explained is why he has felt it necessary to rename M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), for which there is an abundance of physiological evidence, worldwide, to justify its name and its recognition, by the World Health Organisation, as a discrete neurological illness and not a psychiatric one, as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which is a catch-all diagnostic label for a variety of illnesses, many of which are of psychiatric origin and then try to treat them as though they are the same. This he persists in doing and successfully influences others to do the same, even though all the available evidence, including his own, shows that one recommended treatment, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has no lasting benefit, without relapse, for people with M.E. and the other, Graded Exercise Treatment (GET), makes a majority worse, some irrecoverably so.

    It is no more of a secret that the Armed Forces do not admire Professor Wessely than it is that he claims to admire them. He wouldn't have endeared himself to them very much by saying that Private Harry Farr, shot during the First World War for cowardice, should not have been pardoned (Royal Society of Medicine, media release, 1 September 2006). Professor Wessely has about as many friends in the M.E Community as he has amongst our military heroes, who came home chronically ill after serving their country in the Gulf War and for much the same reason. Sure, Professor Wessely says of both illness, M.E. and Gulf War Syndrome (GWS), the proper names of which he does not use himself, that the origin may have been physical but it is the patient who maintains the illness by inappropriate responses to their symptoms and restricting their mobility, even though he has no evidence for this, when common sense suggests that any advantage in being ill is far outweighed by all the disadvantages and when they remain ill despite his recommended treatments.

    Professor Wessely always complains of getting hate mail from the very people he is trying to help. People with M.E. and GWS say this is help they could do without. Most of the correspondence that Professor Wessely receives is not about him personally but the quality of his science that was again called into question after a recent interview (When illness is mostly in the mind, New Scientist, 11 March 2009), which received an unprecedented number of responses and about the more reliable research, from equally qualified doctors and professors, which he either ignores or doesn't accept.

    Work like Professor Wessely's is soaking up the entire research funding pot, some of which could be used to finance promising biomedical research, more likely to provide an approriate treatment, perhaps even a cure.

    Yours sincerely

    Dr John H Greensmith

    ME Free For All. org"
  7. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    It occurred to me as I was writing my letter that my personal intention was not to get published but to indicate that I found the quality of reporting very poor, given that Wessely's full involvement was not disclosed among other omissions, and that their journalistic standards were low.

    There are so many ways to respond to something like this, which may not get published, but which may, incrementally, influence editorial decisions.

    For other pieces not so focused on a bio of one man, one could write and say, intelligently, that everyone in the free world seems to know that ME and GWI were biological these days... what are you going on about? Why should I trust your reporting if you can't even get this right, sort of thing.

    Their bottom line is readership. They will, in spite of any "journalistic integrity" they may have had coming out of Uni, do what they must to keep their readers and, thereby, their advertisers.

    People like Dr Greensmith can get their letters published as rebuttal and for awareness and the rest of us can represent the zeitgeist and ask why this malarky is being published in a reputable paper?

    I want to change my username to

  8. Bluebottle

    Bluebottle New Member

    That's a good point, I hope thye will publish several letters.

    I've tried to p st a comment after registering, but it just won't post.I wonder why?

[ advertisement ]