By David Tuller, DrPH
Earlier today (Sunday, June 9th, in San Francisco), I sent the following e-mail to Professor Roger Jones, the editor of the British Journal of General Practice. I first wrote to Professor Jones in early May, seeking a correction to a 2017 editorial about the cost of so-called “medically unexplained symptoms” to the National Health Service. After some back and forth, Professor Jones sent me a message on May 29th that the journal was correcting the error “now.”
I wrote him back and thanked him, including some suggestions about what the correction might include. As of this posting, the editorial remains uncorrected. The British Journal of General Practice is continuing to disseminate what it knows to be false information about an important public health policy issue.
Dear Professor Jones–
On Wed, May 29th, you sent me an e-mail in which you indicated that the British Journal of General Practice was correcting a false statement that I had brought to your attention. That statement, about the cost to the UK National Health Service of “medically unexplained symptoms,” appeared in a 2017 editorial written by Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham and colleagues. Your e-mail noted that the correction was being made “now.” I interpreted “now” to mean that day–or certainly later that week, or perhaps the following week.
Yet so far no correction has appeared in the online version of the BJGP editorial. The editorial still states that “the annual NHS cost for MUS in adults of working age in England was estimated to be Â£2.89 billion in 2008/2009 (11% of total NHS spend).” As I noted, this is a misquotation of a key figure from Bermingham et al, a seminal study in the field. The study reported instead that these costs accounted for ten percent of NHS spending for that specific age group–a very different statistic with very different public health and public policy implications.
Can you please let me know when BJGP has made this correction and/or when it will be visible to online readers of the editorial?
Thanks again for your attention to this matter. I have cc-d the same group of interested parties.
David Tuller, DrPH
Senior Fellow in Public Health and Journalism
Center for Global Public Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley