The original Doctor Dishy may not appeal to politicians or fellow medical professionals but he does have influence in the media and over the general public.
Dr Hilary Jones is the Health Editor of ITV’s Daybreak and has in fact been appearing on ITV’s breakfast programmes since 1989. He also has regular slots on Steve Wright’s BBC Radio 2 show, had a weekly column in the News of the World and contributes to Rosemary Conley’s Diet and Fitness magazine.
Since he is a qualified doctor, it’s reasonable to assume Jones knows a thing or two about health. This means he has a duty to ensure that the advice he gives to the general public is sensible. Any medical opinions he confidently expresses should be well informed. Any product he endorses or any other intervention he recommends should have good evidence on its safety and efficacy.
And Dr Hilary has dispensed health advice through pretty much any medium you can think of. There are a fair few books. There’s a range of pregnancy apps. There are several audio CDs, such as Music for Wellbeing and Perfect Weight. There’s even a CD-ROM.
As we would expect, the advice on Dr Hilary’s website is broadly sensible, with the exception of the odd overenthusiastic and questionable endorsement. Like fellow TV doctor, Chris Steele, Jones recommends YorkTest’s unevidenced FoodScan IgG food intolerance tests (“backed by sound pier reviewed medical science“). He also suggests aromatherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, reflexology and acupuncture for arthritis, stating that they are safe and come with NHS recommendations; and recommends evening primrose oil, aromatherapy, reflexology and Chinese herbal medicine for eczema.
Scratch beneath the surface and it gets worse. It seems Dr Dishy will put his name to anything. He has been overenthusiastically and irresponsibly endorsing all sorts of supplements for years. He has advocated questionable fad diets such as the GoLower ketogenic diet and the LighterLife very low calorie diet.
He has advocated shiatsu on local radio, suggesting it could be useful for anxiety, stress, back pain, neck pain, insomnia, cerebral palsy, and for stroke victims – perhaps even for HIV and cancer.
He will also be at this year’s camexpo (“the UK’s only dedicated complementary healthcare event”) to distribute his article on IBS and discuss how Lepicol can help people maintain a healthy bowel. Similar claims have already been ruled misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority.
It just doesn’t seem to be in Hilary’s nature to consider if there is any good evidence that a treatment does more good than harm before deciding to recommend it.
Even so, when I got hold of a copy of Total Wellbeing from my local library, the contents came as a shock.
The Introduction is naive at best, discussing ill feeling from modern doctors towards complementary therapists and vice versa, suggesting that the only way forward is to “integrate the best of both worlds” (1,2,3).
Yet this book goes further than just recommending those interventions that have been shown to be of benefit, giving a ringing endorsement to each and every complementary therapy, remedy and supplement. It also completely fails to recognise that if an intervention has been shown to be worthwhile, then it can and will be incorporated into conventional medicine – which already integrates the best of both worlds.
I’ll show you what I mean.
It is suggested we carry Dr Bach’s Rescue Remedy for emergencies.
We are told that Colour Therapy is underestimated and can have a profound effects:
From the use of colour in our homes and choice of clothes to the skilled assessment of the electromagnetic vibrations emitted in our aura, the colour therapist can help rebalance the energy system by use of colour.
Magnetic Therapy can also be used to “rebalance the body’s natural energies” and has apparently been found useful for a sleep disorders, MS, ME, irritable bowel syndrome and more.
The book is utterly ridiculous.
We are told we should have a collection of peace lilies in our homes and workplaces because they can
neutralise some of the force fields from computers, microwaves and televisions…
It is suggested we have our houses checked out for geopathic stress, or else invest in a neutraliser.
We are told that period problems could be caused by trauma between the ages of 5 and 8 leading to a blocking of the sacral chakra and should you find this baffling, there is a detailed Appendix on the Energy System.
But Total Wellbeing is not just ludicrous and irrational. Some of the advice is highly irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
In the section on infertility, we are told that colloidal silver will cleanse the whole reproductive system though in reality, colloidal silver carries a severe risk of serious side effects, with no evidence of its efficacy.
It is even suggested that in some cases, schizophrenia may have been wrongly diagnosed and if in any doubt, you are advised to seek a second opinion from a spiritual psychiatrist.
… there is a theory which is that of spiritual emergence and emergency where sudden spiritual changes including the unexpected raising of the kundalini can thrust the person into a state which appears foreign and frightening, during which what they report and experience is hardly distinguishable from schizophrenia. What is of great concern in such cases is that if the state is wrongly diagnosed and the patient is put on medication that is inappropriate, it is difficult to reach the person to help them return to a more normal state.
It’s frightening stuff.
To be fair to Dr Hilary, I suspect his co-author may have been responsible for some of the quackier, ‘spiritual’ sections. But he still went along with it.
It could also be argued that it is not a recent book – but while I think the climate might have changed since 1999, it is my suspicion that Hilary Jones has not.
You might remember his spirited defence of the Burzynski clinic in December of last year. When – commendably – fellow presenters brought up some of the very serious issues with the clinic, Hilary responded:
It is pioneering research, and pioneers in medicine tend to get a rough ride to begin with
Dr Burzynski’s ‘pioneering research’ has been going on for over thirty-five years. As I have said before, the comments by Dr Hilary Jones were highly misleading, irresponsible and misinformed.