Doctor fights GMC on MMR
By Lorraine Fraser
A DOCTOR who has been helping parents who have concerns about MMR vaccination by prescribing alternative injections for their children has been ordered to appear before the General Medical Council and could be barred from medical practice.
Peter Mansfield, a former GP who has been seeing up to 70 families a time at twice-monthly private clinics in Worcestershire, was told last week that the council's rapid response Interim Orders Committee intended to consider his conduct because "it may pose an immediate risk to patient safety".
The GMC's unprecedented action will reignite the controversy over the safety of the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccination that researchers have said may be linked with childhood bowel disease and autism.
It goes to the heart of the row over whether worried parents should be allowed to choose single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines for their children instead of the combined jab. The Department of Health has withdrawn single measles vaccine from the NHS, leaving a handful of private clinics, importing it on a named patient basis, as the only source for parents in Britain.
The Interim Orders Committee of the GMC has the power to suspend a doctor's licence to practice for 18 months, impose restrictions and/or refer a case for a full hearing of the council.
A decision against Dr Mansfield would make it difficult for any other doctor to continue to offer the three vaccines separately. The case, which threatens to become a cause celebre, has important implications because it challenges doctors' freedom to prescribe the medicines they believe to be best for their patients.
Dr Mansfield told The Telegraph last night that he had asked for the GMC hearing, expected within the next few weeks, to be held in public. He said he would vigorously defend his right to prescribe the single vaccines to children where their parents wished it.
He said: "I am prepared to go the distance. I wouldn't have got involved if I didn't feel strongly that doctors are making a mistake here. Parents have a point and are entitled to their opinion."
The GMC's intervention follows a complaint from Brian McCloskey, director of public health for Worcester Health Authority, alleging that Dr Mansfield has been putting children "at risk" because his actions are "outside normal clinical practice" and against DoH advice.
He urged the GMC in a letter to take quick action to stop Dr Mansfield's work with Desumo, a company set up by parents to provide single vaccines and which donates money to charities investigating vaccine safety.
The row over MMR erupted three years ago but intensified earlier this year when Dr Andrew Wakefield of the Royal Free Hospital revealed he had seen 170 children with a new syndrome of digestive problems and autistic behaviour, the "majority" of whom had fallen ill after the triple jab. He suggested that the safest option was for children to be given the vaccines separately.
His comments, in an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, outraged the medical establishment. The Department of Health dismissed the research as "bad science" and launched a £3 million campaign in January to reassure parents.
Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, advised doctors that children should not be given separate measles, mumps and rubella vaccines in place of MMR because there was a "clear risk of harm".
MMR vaccination rates have continued to fall - so much so that public health officials have warned that a measles outbreak could result. Meanwhile, parents groups argue that the department's stance on single vaccines has presented families with a very difficult choice: to accept MMR or leave their child unprotected against the illness.
Dr Mansfield defended his conduct yesterday. "I advise parents who approach me of all the vaccination options available to them and detail all arguments for and against. I do not encourage parental concerns; these exist already, and deserve to be taken seriously," he said.
"The people who have come to us have denied their children MMR, in some cases as long as three years ago. The single measles vaccine I am prescribing is the best available for someone who is unwilling to have MMR. The Department of Health's view is a denial of choice.
"Giving parents no official option but MMR and pressuring them to accept it seems institutionally unprofessional - however, many professional bodies choose to endorse the practice."
Debbie Ryding, Desumo's founder, said that 600 families from all over Britain had attended the clinics, held at a hired day centre, since May. She said: "We set it up because we felt that parents needed to be able to choose. They should have all the information and then take it from there. Worcestershire Health Authority knew we were going to be doing it because I told them myself."
Parents attending the clinic pay £42 to register and receive an information pack. The cost of the vaccines is rubella, £35; measles, £50; and mumps, £45 - paid at the time of injection. Dr Mansfield provides telephone services for bookings and after care, but says he has no other financial interest in the company.
Leading medical bodies in Britain and around the world, including the World Health Organisation, support the use of the combined MMR vaccination
MP backs doctor in row over single dose MMR
By Celia Hall, Medical Editor
AN MP is backing a doctor who has been reported to the General Medical Council for supplying single dose vaccines in the on-going controversy over MMR vaccine.
Julie Kirkbride, the Conservative MP for Bromsgrove, said she was outraged that Dr Peter Mansfield faces a ban or restrictions on his medical practice because it is claimed that providing vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella separately is "outside normal clinical practice".
Outraged: Julie Kirkbride with her son, Angus
She said she had planned for her 10-month-old son, Angus, to be given single doses of the vaccines by Dr Mansfield in a few months time.
Dr Mansfield, a former general practitioner from Louth, Lincs, has been providing parents with a choice over triple dose MMR vaccine at private clinics in Worcester.
Prof Brian McCloskey, the director of public health for Worcestershire Health Authority, which covers Miss Kirkbride's constituency, has reported him to the GMC on the grounds that children may be put at extra risk.
Miss Kirkbride, who earlier this year sponsored a Private Member's Bill to give parents the right to choose between the triple MMR jab and single doses, yesterday said she was writing to Prof McCloskey to protest "in the strongest possible terms" about his actions.
She said: "I can't believe this. This is a health authority that has patients waiting 18 months for operations yet it can find the time to report this doctor to the GMC.
"It's symptomatic of the nanny state at work that Worcestershire Health Authority has tried to interfere in the clinical judgment of this doctor trying to do his best for his patients."
Miss Kirkbride said that would resume campaign when Parliament returns after the summer recess. She said there was evidence that only 75 per cent of children were starting school fully-immunised against measles, mumps and rubella. Children receive a second MMR dose when they are four.
The GMC is to hold an interim orders committee hearing, which has the power temporarily to suspend Dr Mansfield from the medical register or restrict his practice.
Dr Mansfield said he advised parents of all the options on vaccination. He believes that the Department of Health's insistence on giving the triple jab is a denial of parental choice.
Dr Mansfield works with a company, Desumo, set up by parents to provide single vaccines and which gives money to charities for vaccine research.
Debbie Ryding, the organisation's director, said: "We are 100 per cent behind him. We agree with everything he's saying. Judging by the calls we have been taking, our parents and other organisations are behind him, too."
She said the health authority had "no grounds" for making the complaint and that Dr Mansfield was not operating outside clinical guidelines.