Prof Robin Gauld
University of Otago researchers have told BMJ (formerly
called the British Medical Journal) to be more transparent
after it highlighted a glowing report about the Canterbury
District Health Board without disclosing who paid for it.
Last week it was revealed the Canterbury board paid the
King's Fund in the United Kingdom $186,000 to write an
article that appeared to be an independent analysis of
Canterbury health services. An editorial about the report was
published in BMJ, which last week published a letter
expressing concern co-written by Centre for Health Systems
director Prof Robin Gauld, of Dunedin.
The report, which was released last year, detailed the
''impressive progress'' of the Canterbury board since the
earthquakes, and praised the region's integration of primary
and secondary health services.
''This funding was not revealed in the report and in its
editorial the BMJ seems to have simply accepted the findings
as independent, with no disclosure of the [Canterbury
''The BMJ has always been a champion of transparency when it
comes to funding and other conflicts of interest. If we were
submitting such a report, we would have to declare funding
sources and potential conflicts of interest - right down to
saying which conferences we had attended and who paid for
''Those principles of transparency and independence have not
been applied here,'' Prof Gauld said in a press released
issued by the university yesterday.
The group of academics, who include researchers in Dunedin
and Christchurch, have said the King's Fund report did not
acknowledge less positive facets of Canterbury healthcare,
including the level of ''unmet need'' for health services.
A prepared statement from the Canterbury health board's chief
executive, David Meates, defended the spending, while
pointing out the board had no role in the BMJ editorial.
''Investing $180,000 (0.01% of our budget) in the King's Fund
review and report was an important step to help us determine
whether we were heading in the right direction with our
significant transformation of the health system.
''Their researcher spent time talking to clinicians from
throughout the Canterbury health system - this included
people working in general practice teams as well as in our
The board had asked for a ''warts and all'' report, but its
purpose was not to determine the level of unmet health need
in the community, Mr Meates said.
Southern District Health Board communications director Steve
Addison said when contacted the southern board had
commissioned no similar report on its own progress.