Letter from Ian Balmer, CE, RSM

Letter from Mr Ian Balmer, Chief Executive, The Royal Society of Medicine

This morning, I have received a paper letter from Mr Ian Balmer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Medicine, dated 12 May 2008, in response to the postcard I had sent to Dr John Scadding, Dean of the RSM, as part of the “On a Postcard, please” Campaign.

This is a standard letter which is being sent out by Mr Balmer, on behalf of the RSM, in response to the many individuals and groups who had contacted the RSM by paper letter, postcard or email with their concerns about the line-up and agenda for this conference.

Leaving aside for the time being, the content of Mr Balmer’s responses to the many concerns which would have been brought to his attention, there are a few issues I would like to raise:

Mr Balmer has written:

“Although this was principally a conference for health professionals, the RSM did offer free stands to two patient interest groups. Indeed these offers were taken up and representatives of three groups were present and distributed a wide range of leaflets and documents.”

1] We know that the ME Association took a stand which was manned by Tony Britton.  The MEA has stated that Dr Charles Shepherd attended the first presentation (Prof PD White) and that it had been his intention to attend all the conference sessions, but in the event, was unable to do so due to family circumstances.

The MEA has stated that “A member of the MEA has very generously agreed to cover all of our costs that will be involved.”  If no charge was made by the RSM for the stand, itself, then it remains unclear what costs were met by a member of the MEA.  It also remains unclear on what basis Dr Shepherd had attended the conference, itself.

2]  Are we to assume that Action for ME (AfME) also took a stand? It is known that Heather Walker was present at the event – though there is no mention in the latest issue of InterAction of AfME having also taken a stand at the conference, in addition to Sir Peter Spencer’s having been a speaker.

Issue 64, May 2008 edition of AfME’s InterAction magazine carries a summary of the presentation Sir Peter delivered to the conference but there is no further mention of whether AfME intends to produce summaries of all or some of the other presentations, as AfME has previously suggested.  [Mr Balmer states that a webcast of the conference will shortly be made available on the RSM website.]

3] In his standard letter, Mr Balmer writes:

“…representatives of three groups were present and distributed a wide range of leaflets and documents.”

Who was the third group present, distributing leaflets?  Is Mr Balmer referring to Joan Crawford and her husband and any assistants who joined them in the distribution of leaflets outside the RSM building, on the morning of the conference?  If not, then who was the third group present?

4] Note the letter is headed “Re: CFS/ME Conference”

5] Mr Balmer does not address the criticism surrounding the number of psychiatrists who comprised the CFS Conference Planning Committee or the heavy psychiatric / psychological bias of those selected to give the presentations. 

6] Mr Balmer states that the RSM has decided to run a “Medicine and Me conference on the subject of CFS/ME”  later this year.  These events appear to be run in association with a patient organisation / charity.  I will post links for the Agendas of previous “Medicine and Me” conferences in the next few days so that readers can get a feel for the structure of these events.  It will be interesting to see, assuming this proposed event follows the pattern of previous events, whether the ME Association will be vying with AfME for the role of “in association with”.

If you wrote to the RSM and have received a response other than this standard letter and would like a copy published on ME agenda and Read ME UK Events sites, please let me know.


The Royal Society of Medicine

Patron HM The Queen

Mr Ian Balmer
Tel: 020 7290 2901  Fax: 020 7290 2909
Email: ian.balmer@rsm.ac.uk

12 May 2008

Ms Suzy Chapman

Dear Ms Chapman

Re: CFS/ME Conference

Firstly, can I thank you for the views you have sent the Royal Society of Medicine regarding this important conference. It perhaps will not surprise you to know that we were inundated with such responses and therefore it has been decided that I will respond in all cases, regardless of who the original letter was sent to.

Perhaps there were two broad criticisms made of the RSM that were common to most of the letters we received. Firstly that the conference was predominantly discussing this issue with reference to guidelines produced by NICE, which in the view of some did not fully explore the potential biomedical causes of this problem. The second major criticism was that the conference itself excluded patients.

It is important to realise that the intended audience of this conference was health professionals from a range of diverse backgrounds. Although this was principally a conference for health professionals, the RSM did offer free stands to two patient interest groups. Indeed these offers were taken up and representatives of three groups were present and distributed a wide range of leaflets and documents.

The RSM rejects the criticism made of the symposium and believes that all the content was evidence based and of high scientific quality. We will be making the conference available as a webcast, and this will be on the RSM website shortly.

In order to redress the issue of patient involvement, the RSM has decided introduce a ‘Medicine and Me’ conference on the subject of CFS/ME.

This will be part of a series of conferences aimed at a wider audience, the planning of which will include patients and the format of which allows patients to speak first, and experts to respond to the issues raised. Typically the audiences for these conferences will be comprised of 70% patients and families. This particular series has proved extremely successful in allowing patients to share their experiences, focus on issues of greatest important to them and allow true dialogue between patients and acknowledged experts. This conference will be held in the early part of the 2008/09 academic year.

Once again, thank you for comments regarding this very important issue.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely

Mr Ian Balmer
Chief Executive

1 Wimpole Street
London W1G 0AE
Tel: +44 (0)207290 2900
Charity No: 206219
VAT reg no 524 413671



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