Sarah Wollaston

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Sarah Wollaston is the Conservative MP for Totnes. She entered Parliament at the 2010 general election, the previous MP, Anthony Steen (Conservative), having stepped down.

Dr Wollaston holds degrees in medicine and in pathology. She has worked as a GP and a police surgeon.[1]

Dr Wollaston has stated that she does not sign Early Day Motions "because EDMs now cost around £1 million per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law"[2]. Hence her not signing a motion gives no indication as to her stance on the issue.

Contents

Alcohol

In an interview in the Daily Telegraph (1st September 2009) Wollaston talked about her view relating to alcohol and binge drinking:

"I just don't think that there are enough people in Westminster who can read a scientific paper. There is no scientific evidence that education programmes have any impact on binge drinking – yet, governments throw money at these, presumably because it looks like something is being done. Where there is a wealth of decent published evidence however, the findings are that availability and pricing are the areas that make a difference."[3]

Skeptical blogger Keir Liddle discusses evidence-based alcohol policy here.

Abortion

In an interview in August 2009, Wollaston was asked if she thought the current 24-week time limit on abortion should be lowered. She replied:

"I am strongly pro-choice as far as abortion is concerned and do not think that the law should be changed from the current limit. From my own experience as a doctor, I know that women never take this decision lightly and that late terminations are the exception rather than the rule. Lowering the limit would restrict the ability to carry out terminations for those who are often in the greatest need and I would not support it."[4]

While Wollaston did not justify her stance based on rigorous evidence, her conclusion can be seen as in-line with The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report of October 2007[5] had found no good evidence of change since the 24 week limit was set in 1990, and hence no new reason for a reduction (issues included foetal viability and perception of pain). The report did, however, acknowledge that the scientific evidence was only one of many factors to be taken into account when legislating, and did not make any recommendations as to how MPs should vote.

In September 2011, Parliament debated Health and Social Care Bill amendments from Nadine Dorries and Frank Field which would prevent abortion service providers from also providing counselling. Abortion rights campaigners feared that groups with an anti-abortion agenda would step in to provide the counselling service previously provided by organisations such as BPAS and Marie Stopes. During the debate Dorries mentioned increased rates of mental illness following abortions. Wollaston responded:

"My hon. Friend has twice quoted the Royal College of Psychiatrists and asserted that there is a much higher rate of mental illness after termination of pregnancy, but the RCP has made it clear — any Member can look online at the draft of its very comprehensive evidence review — that we have to compare like with like. In other words, we have to make a comparison with rates of mental illness after unwanted pregnancy. Looking at the rates after unwanted pregnancy, we see that there is no difference between the rate of mental illness after termination of pregnancy and live birth. Indeed, the biggest predictor of mental ill health after a termination of pregnancy is whether somebody was suffering with problems beforehand."[6]

Following the debate Wollaston voted against the amendment[7].

Pharmaceutical Industry

In October 2012, Dr Wollaston tweeted:

Travelling home from speaking at world mental health day reading #BadPharma chilling read from @bengoldacre agree action long overdue[8]

Later that month she asked an Oral Question to the Secretary of State for Health:

"What his policy is on making available all information about the results of clinical trials to patients, doctors and medicine approval bodies."[9]

Norman Lamb responded:

"The Government support transparency in publishing results of clinical trials, and they recognise that more can, and should, be done. In future, greater transparency and the disclosure of trial results will be achieved via the development of the European Union clinical trials register, which will make the summary results of trials conducted in the EU publicly available. Greater transparency can only serve to further public confidence in the safety of medicines, which is already robustly assured in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. By law, the outcomes of clinical trials undertaken by companies must be reported to that regulator, including negative results.

Dr Wollaston then asked:

"I thank the Minister for his answer and for recognising that missing data from clinical trials distorts the evidence and prevents patients and their doctors from making informed decisions about treatment. Will the Minister meet a delegation of leading academics and doctors who remain concerned that not enough is being done to see how we can ensure that all historic and future data are released into the public domain?"

Mr Lamb agreed to a meeting with experts and either himself or Lord (Frederick) Howe.

In December 2012 Dr Wollaston was one of six MPs to write a joint letter to the Public Accounts Committee to request action on hidden trial data and specifically Tamiflu.[10]

Alternative Medicine

CAM for cancer

In March 2012 a cancer conference in Totnes promoting various complementary/alternative therapies[11] came to Dr Wollaston's attention (possibly via this tweet: http://twitter.com/#!/ThetisMercurio/status/177667848401993728). On March 19th the MP stated that she had referred this to Trading Standards[12], and the media reported that Trading Standards were investigating[13]. A few days later it was reported that the event had taken place, but the town council had withdrawn permission for the organisers to use the Civic Hall for the event, the event date had been moved and the most controversial speaker had not attended[14].

Remark on Totnes as a "centre for complementary therapy"

In reporting the above events, a local radio station spoke to Dr Wollaston, and it was reported that she said:

"I reported Dr Hopwood to Trading Standards as I wanted them to investigate whether this puts cancer patients at risk at a vulnerable time in their lives. I am also concerned that Totnes’ reputation as a centre for complementary therapy could be undermined and hope that other practitioners will also complain to trading standards."[15]

Homeopathy

In a series of tweets in June 2012, Dr Wollaston first responded to a suggestion to use homeopathy to treat malaria with the comment "Dangerous claptrap"[16], elaborating "There is no evidence that #homeopathy can treat malaria or any other life threatening disease. Substitutes for effective treatment kill"[17]. She then tweeted that "evidence based medicine has saved millions worldwide from tetanus, diphtheria, polio, congenital rubella to name but a few..."[18]. Responding to a comment calling homeopathy "people & earth-friendly" she noted "except when dangerous claims made about success. If people then don't use an effective evidence based treatment it may kill"[19].

April 2013 on homeopathic "vaccines" for measles: "Most homeopaths do encourage parents to vaccinate alongside the use of homeopathy. Given the current outbreak in Wales, it is also time for their their governing bodies to issue an unequivocal statement that homeopathy offers no protection whatsoever against this serious illness."[20]

Tobacco

Blog post from http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah%27s-blog/#should-we-standardise-cigarette-packets%5bq%5d (undated, but content indicates from time of consultation launch - April 2012?)

In July 2013 the coalition government announced that it would delay the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes, awaiting feedback from the introduction of plain packaging in Australia. Critics linked the delay to government connections with the tobacco industry (e.g. through Lynton Crosby[21]) and wondered how long legislation might be delayed. Following the announcement Dr Wollaston tweeted (twice):

"R.I.P. public health. A day of shame for this government; the only winners big tobacco, big alcohol and big undertakers"[22][23]

Same-sex Marriage

In March 2012 Dr Wollaston posted a blog entry outlining her views on same-sex marriage, stating that she had received letters and e-mails on the proposed legislation. She wrote:

"I feel that marriage is a lifelong commitment to another person and that it should not matter how a person loves, more that we recognise the validity of their commitment. I do not believe that the purpose of marriage needs to be linked to childbearing although I realise that there are many people who do and neither do I feel that the term marriage should belong to any religious faith.
"The Government do not propose to alter religious marriage in any way. We are talking about civil marriage ceremonies — the sort currently conducted in registry offices, country houses and hotels. Civil marriages can't happen inside a church now and won't under the proposals.
"People who are gay should be allowed to celebrate their love and commitment in a context that society understands. Civil partnerships do play a valuable role and we have made great strides forward in recent years but if we deny gay people marriage we are continuing a cycle of prejudice that in my opinion devalues their relationships."[24]

Bovine TB/Badger Cull

Website: http://www.drsarah.org.uk/issues/bovine-tb

Climate Change/Solar Power Arrays

Blog post, July 2013: http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah%27s-blog/#renewable-energy-and-solar-arrays-14th-july-2013

Mandatory Work Scheme

In June 2012 Dr Wollaston tweeted a few remarks following the posting of this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/13/mandatory-work-scheme-government-research Full conversation:

‏@lecanardnoir --- Will the Tories follow their own evidence or their dogma? http://qako.me/KI9N2R (I'm not really asking.)[25]
@drwollastonmp --- @lecanardnoir would you judge any major trial after only 3 months Andy or allow assessment of early identified problems?[26]
‏@lecanardnoir --- @drwollastonmp Of course not. I hope there is a strong commitment to keep testing. But all parties are very poor if evidence drifts away...[27]
‏@lecanardnoir --- @drwollastonmp Labour had their own dogmas where evidence was not welcome![28]
@drwollastonmp --- .@lecanardnoir looking at ways to get long term unemployed back into jobs isnt about dogma its a route out of poverty & improves self esteem[29]
‏@lecanardnoir --- @drwollastonmp There are elements though that have been indistinguishable from giving large employers cheap labour though.[30]
‏@lecanardnoir --- @drwollastonmp If the policy as enacted does not work then taxpayers are just subsidizing corporate profits.[31]
@drwollastonmp --- @lecanardnoir surely the dogma would be in thinking that very short term programmes designed to break cycle of worklessness must be full pay[32]
@drwollastonmp --- @lecanardnoir They have supervise/ train and have significant costs themselves. Disgraceful rhetoric about 'slavery' from some quarters[33]
‏@lecanardnoir --- .@drwollastonmp How well do you think the coalition is doing in assimilating evidence into its policy decisions?[34]

Steiner Free Schools

In October 2010 Dr Wollaston posted a blog post on Steiner schools:

"Whilst the philosophy behind Steiner Education may not suit those who seek a more conventional curriculum, there is much to commend and certainly room within our education system for more choice. Students in year 10 were keen to defend the benefits of their curriculum and I know many local parents as well as teachers at the school will welcome their bid for free school status so that Steiner Schooling is open to all, rather than restricted to those who can afford to pay."[35]

In February 2012 Dr Wollaston spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on cycling in which she mentioned the cycling scheme of a Steiner school in her constituency and paid tribute to an initiative of the parents.[36]

Some skeptical views on Steiner schools:

Wind Turbines

Website: http://www.drsarah.org.uk/issues/wind-turbines

References

  1. http://www.drsarah.org.uk/about/meet-sarah
  2. http://www.drsarah.org.uk/campaigns/campaign-responses#cctv-in-slaughterhouses
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/6104310/Sarah-Wollaston-GP-mother-and-Conservative-Parliamentary-candidate.html
  4. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/sarah-wollaston-you-ask-the-questions-1776509.html
  5. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  6. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110907/debtext/110907-0001.htm#st_o210
  7. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110907/debtext/110907-0002.htm#110907-0002.htm_div339
  8. http://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/256106712350748672
  9. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121023/debtext/121023-0001.htm#12102347000025
  10. http://www.badscience.net/2012/12/mps-write-to-public-accounts-committee-to-request-action-on-hidden-trials-and-tamiflu/
  11. http://www.freezepage.com/1330710868PPVPSWSRQD
  12. http://twitter.com/#!/drwollastonmp/status/181787875363397633
  13. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-17441970
  14. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-17500781
  15. http://www.totnesfm.co.uk/#/hopwood-cancer-event-shut-down/4562179220
  16. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/213018224470663168
  17. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/213018516117401600
  18. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/213029408489996289
  19. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/213030831004975105
  20. http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah%27s-blog/#the-case-for-community-immunity (frozen: http://www.freezepage.com/1366094477VFPQKNGASW)
  21. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23301478
  22. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/355588945901404160
  23. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/355645863013519362
  24. http://www.drsarah.org.uk/sarah%27s-blog/#same-sex-marriages (frozen: http://www.freezepage.com/1333195521KIFUXTNXCP)
  25. https://twitter.com/lecanardnoir/status/213161993287385088
  26. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/213164171460751360
  27. https://twitter.com/lecanardnoir/status/213164750757044224
  28. https://twitter.com/lecanardnoir/status/213164879673171968
  29. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/213166779793539073
  30. https://twitter.com/lecanardnoir/status/213167227699081216
  31. https://twitter.com/lecanardnoir/status/213167393013366786
  32. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/213169136975626240
  33. https://twitter.com/drwollastonmp/status/213169954311249920
  34. https://twitter.com/lecanardnoir/status/213171034780737537
  35. http://www.drsarah.org.uk/diary/south-devon-steiner-school/244
  36. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2012-02-23a.343.0#g367.1

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