“This is the child’s main health record and should be kept safe.” (UK Department of Health Statement about the Red Book)
Journalist Brian Deer, who has conducted a seven year campaign against Andrew Wakefield displayed his ignorance of basic medical protocol in a recent BBC Radio4 documentary (HERE). Deer alleged that Wakefield was “an incompetent doctor” because he relied on “baby books” rather than “GP records” in assembling the patient histories in the controversial ‘Lancet Paper’ (HERE), and dismissed the parent held developmental records as of being of no significance. Deer was wrong on all accounts.
1. Wakefield had nothing to do with compiling the patient histories which were taken by consultant Prof John Walker-Smith on referral to his paediatric-gastroenterology clinic.
2. While referrals are generally made with accompanying communications between GP and consultant it is not normal practice for GPs to forward all the patient’s notes.
3. The developmental records, Personal Child Health Record or Red Books, are routinely brought by the parents of young children to medical appointments of every kind and contain much essential information.
The dispute arises because Deer’s allegations of fraud against Wakefield are based substantially on alleged discrepancies between GP records and the patient histories as recorded in the Lancet, but while no one at the Royal Free would ever have seen the GP records at the time (HERE), Deer himself has never seen the developmental records which he now contemptuously dismisses as “baby books”, but which may very well help to confirm Wakefield’s case. British Medical Journal which published Deer’s latest raft of allegations in January have outside normal academic journal practice restricted comment in their columns and never required Deer to respond to any single criticism (HERE).
Deer’s astonishing claim was not in any way challenged by the programme’s presenter, Dr Adam Rutherford, who was also heard brow-beating Wakefield during the programme. Rutherford, who is an editor of the prestigious scientific journal Nature but not a medical doctor, further failed to identify another interviewee on the programme, Prof Mark Pepys, as being especially favoured by MMR manufacturers (and former defendants) GlaxoSmithKline. Pepys, who was recently hailed by GSK as an “academic superstar” heads a business partnership between University College London and GSK which was not mentioned on the programme, or disclosed by UCL when they announced an internal enquiry into the alleged fraud, which Pepys - an historical antagonist of Wakefield - is now apparently heading (HERE). Dr Rutherford has also failed to answer two emails enquiring what he knew of these matters.
This episode highlights the extent to which the medical establishment, in constructing its case against Wakefield, has at all times hidden behind the evidence of an investigative reporter with a complete absence of medical expertise. The literature supporting the importance of Red Books in UK medical practice is extensive and makes Deer’s outburst look particularly ill-informed and unwise.
An UK National Health Service website advises (HERE):
“Shortly before or after your baby is born, you’ll be given a Personal Child Health Record (PCHR). In most areas of England, this has a red cover and is often called ‘the red book’. This is a way of keeping track of your child’s progress. It makes sure that, wherever you are and whatever happens to your child, you’ll have a record of their health and progress, which can be shared with health professionals.
“When you visit a clinic, your GP or a hospital healthcare professional will use the red book to record your child’s weight and other measurements, vaccinations and other important health information. You can also add information yourself. It’s a good idea to record any illnesses or accidents and details of any medicines your child takes.
“You’ll find it helpful to keep the developmental milestones section of the PCHR up to date and to fill in the relevant questionnaires before the review. Don’t forget to take the book with you when you take your child for a review or vaccination. Try to remember it too if you have to go to accident and emergency or a walk-in centre.”
A recent Department of Health pamphlet states (HERE):
“* This is the child‟s main health record and should be kept safe.
* It should be taken with the child whenever attending:
- any Child/Community Health Clinic;
- the health visitor;
- the family doctor;
- the hospital emergency department;
- the hospital outpatient department;
- the dentist;
- the eye clinic or orthoptist;
- any allied health professional; or,
- if the child is admitted to hospital.
Professionals should note that they reinforce the importance of the PCHR by asking the parent to provide it for them to use at consultations.
This is the child’s record and it is for the parent to write in as well as professionals.”
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.