Dr Charles Shepherd, Prof Leslie Findley and Phil Parker (Lightning Process) on Radio Berkshire
Note: This is an edited version of content first posted on 11 November.
On 2 November, the ME Association reported that BBC Radio Berkshire had broadcast an interview with the ME Association’s medical adviser, Dr Charles Shepherd, during an item on the UK life ban on blood donation by everyone with the illness ME and CFS which was implemented on 1 November.
During the interview, also broadcast on 1 November, Esther Rantzen, standing in for Anne Diamond, the usual presenter of this mid-morning programme, had sidelined discussion of the implementation of the blood ban to promote the Lightning Process.
The ME Association reported that “Claims were made about the value of Lightning Process approach for people with ME/CFS and recovery rates for the illness which we challenged as soon as we heard they had been made. These will be the subject of a further item on BBC Radio Berkshire on Thursday 11 November…” See next posting
The 1 November broadcast can be heard here, on YouTube, in three parts:
There has been considerable concern about the way in which Ms Rantzen conducted herself during the ME strand on this programme which had included contributions from ME patients via phone link. Complaints have been pouring in to the programme producers by email and phone.
One poster on Facebook wrote:
Esther Rantzen to radio caller Will: “..Now I am going to tell you something Will….. I can tell you about my daughter, she found something called the Lightning Process and you can find it on the internet….. it’s a method of training your brain to withstand the symptoms….. it’s a form of Neuro-linguistic Programming, you know how people use their mindset to withstand symptoms….”
Esther to Will: “…Let me tell you something else, it is an illness that most people recover from spontaneously, most people, 60% of people, get back to normality”
(Surely recovery rates are between 5 and 12%?)
Caller Will to Esther referring to the lifetime ban on giving blood by everyone diagnosed with ME (whether or not any improvement in their health has occurred). Will explains that some people have been wrongly diagnosed with ME and turned out to have completely different diseases:
Will: “…The difficulty is with the diagnostic process with ME, it’s an educated guess by specialists so there may be many people diagnosed with ME that may not even have ME in the first place….. now, in line with the blood ban that’s been announced to day what happens if you’ve been misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed…”
Esther: “Well, I mean, obviously the ban cannot apply…”
WRONG. The lifetime blood ban from the 1st November applies to everyone who has been given a diagnosis of ME or CFS in the UK. Esther announced that the ban “cannot apply” to individual cases. That is very irresponsible of her and appears to overrule the Blood Services announcement on the ban.
Esther to Will: “Will listen, don’t give up hope..… I tell you what, have a look at what the Lightning Process, it’s on the internet…”
Esther has directed the caller to look up Lightning on the internet for the second time in a few minutes. What Will would find on the internet is the commercial Lightning site advertising Lightning.
Will: “…I don’t think I have the funds….”
Esther: “I think there may be an equivalent on the NHS”
WRONG. There is no equivalent of Lightning on the NHS.
Today, just after 12 noon, in a pre-recorded interview, Anne Diamond discussed ME and CFS in general, its WHO neurological classification, the need for biomedical research and sub-grouping, the MRC’s CFS/ME Expert Group, the Lightning Process, and illness prognosis with Dr Charles Shepherd and Professor Leslie Findley. There was a brief contribution from Phil Parker towards the end of the interviews.
In 2007, Prof Leslie Findley had undertaken an informal, non RCT pilot study of the Lightning Process. No results from this pilot have been published but Prof Findley spoke to the Canadian media in an article here, in 2008, in which he quotes unremarkable results and reports that in small number of cases there can be bad relapses.
CBS News In Depth: Health
Controversial training program comes to Canada
April 18, 2008 | By Zoe Cormier
Prof Findley had also given a presentation around the pilot study at the 2007 Ramsay Society Annual Meeting with a colleague, Gerrie de Vries. There is no English summary or note of this Ramsay Society meeting but photographs and notes were published, in German, by Regina Clos, which can be read in auto translate here:
Gerrie de Vries & Leslie J. Findley: “The Effects of the Lightning Process in the Management of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – a start.” : http://tinyurl.com/sykesgermantoenglish
An personal account here on Bad Science Forum mentions Prof Findley’s involvement in “Neuro Behavioural Training” – an approach described as encompassing “Occupational Therapy, Clincal Hypnotherapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Life Coaching”. Sessions take place over three days.
When asked about the Lightning Process, in today’s interview, Prof Findley said “…it’s been badly, badly applied, poorly researched and we would use it or recommend it probably in perhaps one in thirty or one in forty of patients, after they have been properly assessed over a long period of time and more standard management programmes have been applied” but he did not mention that he had, himself, undertaken an informal pilot in 2007.
Until 18 November, you can “Listen again” to the Radio Berkshire broadcast on BBC iPlayer at:
Radio Berkshire 11 November Anne Diamond
Starts at 2 hours 3 mins in from beginning of programme.
Broadcast on BBC Berkshire, 10:00am Thu, 11 Nov 2010
Available until 1:02pm Thu, 18 Nov 2010
Or listen on YouTube, here:
On 10 November I sent this letter of complaint to the producers of the Anne Diamond programme. (At 18 November, I have yet to receive a response or acknowledgement.)
Re: Broadcast in which Esther Rantzen discussed ME/CFS and the new UK ban on blood donation by everyone with the illness with ME Association medical adviser, Dr Charles Shepherd, BBC Radio Berkshire: Monday 1 November
I am writing to complain about Ms Rantzen’s handling of this broadcast.
I understand that Ms Rantzen was standing in for the usual presenter, Ms Anne Diamond.
I have the following concerns:
1] Ms Rantzen was brought in to present a programme during which the ME/CFS blood ban would be discussed.
Ms Rantzen has a number of COIs in relation to ME/CFS.
Ms Rantzen is President of AYME (The Young People’s ME Trust).
She is known to promote the Phil Parker Lightning Process in the media.
The patient organisation of which she is President has for its medical adviser, Dr Esther Crawley.
Dr Esther Crawley is about to commence recruiting participants to a controversial pilot study where the Lightning Process will be applied to children aged 12 to 18 years old, for which Dr Crawley is Chief Investigator.
The patient organisation of which Ms Rantzen is President has been involved in the development and planning of this Lightning Process pilot study.
The patient organisation of which Ms Rantzen is President has a seat on the “Expert Advisory Group” for this Lightning Process pilot study.
2] I have scrutinised a partial transcript and note that during the broadcast, Ms Rantzen, on several occasions, sought to promote the Lightning Process to the public and to a contributor to the programme calling on a phone-link and that she also directed him to look at the internet for more information on the Lightning Process.
Ms Rantzen also made claims for recovery rates of patients with ME/CFS for which she offered no supporting evidence.
3] In my opinion, Ms Rantzen gave misleading information in relation to the blood ban and its application to individuals.
In response to the caller’s concerns about the cost of the Lightning Process, Ms Rantzen is reported as having said, “I think there may be an equivalent on the NHS”.
This is incorrect, there is no equivalent available on the NHS.
In the light of Ms Rantzen’s COIs and given her blatant promotion of the Lightning Process during a BBC broadcast I do not consider that Ms Rantzen could be considered to have been a neutral presenter.
I do not consider that she should have used the issue of the ME/CFS blood ban to promote a commercial “training” programme marketed by Phil Parker and his Lightning Process trainers / coaches / practitioners during a BBC broadcast.
I consider that the BBC was negligent in its failure to take Ms Rantzen’s COIs into consideration when selecting a stand-in for Ms Diamond and that Ms Rantzen had taken advantage of her position, as presenter, to introduce and promote the Lightning Process to the public during an item, the focus of which, was the recent UK blood ban for ME/CFS patients.
I would welcome your responses.
I also request a copy of the BBC’s policy on the declaration of COIs in its presenters and a copy of the BBC’s policy on the promotion of commercial goods and services by BBC presenters during broadcasts.
1] SMILE – Specialist Medical Intervention and Lightning Evaluation documents (Lightning Process pilot study – children [now aged 12 to 18] with CFS and ME): http://wp.me/p5foE-37x
2] ASA adjudication against “Withinspiration”, June 2010
3] Background to this issue: http://wp.me/p5foE-2Vt
4] All posts on Lightning Process pilot study in children issue on ME agenda: https://meagenda.wordpress.com/category/lightning-process-smile-study/