Gagging scientists isn’t new

The Observer, 28 February 2016:

I am not the least surprised to learn that the Cabinet Office is seeking to censor scientists who unearth findings that might prove inconvenient or embarrassing to  Government Ministers (Scientists alarmed at bid to “muzzle” their findings.Feb 21). These same strictures have applied to members of the medical profession for at least 10 years. Hospital doctors are not permitted to comment on NHS policy as a representative of the Trust by whom they are employed; instead they are obliged to write in a private capacity and even then they may not be immune from censure, which is why many letters from consultants are anonymous.

In 2003 I wrote an op-ed piece for the Times which stated “The NHS is the last refuge of Stalinist practices in the West. It has a central command and control structure whereby politically inspired initiatives filter to front-line medical staff through layers of managers and bureaucrats, most of whom have no medical qualifications”.  The Times put my hospital, St Thomas’, at the end of the article and it wasn’t long before I was called in by management and told in no uncertain terms that any repeat of this episode would lead to  disciplinary action. Scientists can express their views. They just need to be careful about their affiliation.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire