A failure of evidence: Researchers tear up Lansley’s white paper

By Ian Dunt

Many of the proposals in a recent white paper on health are likely to be totally ineffective, researchers have found.

Analysts from the respected British Medical Journal picked apart the paper to find that there was no evidence for many of the plans, despite promises from the Conservatives they would base policy on evidence and evaluation.

The finding is particularly embarrassing for health secretary Andrew Lansley, who told the Faculty of Public Health in 2010 that only "effective interventions that deliver proven benefits" should be pursued.

In a thorough assessment of the government's plans, researchers examined 51 statements in the recent 'Healthy Lives, Healthy People' white paper and compared them against the available evidence before asking expert advisers to review the completeness and accuracy of their assessments.

They found that, while some interventions were in keeping with the existing evidence base, many were likely to be ineffective or lack evidence of effectiveness.

Some interventions, such as universal cardiovascular risk-screening for those aged 40-74, should not be implemented, they concluded, while others required considerably more evaluation before being pursued.