Report of the MMR Expert Group
Mr Malcolm Chisholm MSP, Minister for Health and Community Care
When Susan Deacon, the former Minister for Health, asked me to chair the MMR Expert Group, I was aware of the broad issues relating to MMR. The peaks and troughs of media interest; a growing public awareness of the tragedy of autism and Crohn's; the heartfelt campaigns of some parents of children with autism who are convinced that MMR is somehow responsible; news of outbreaks of measles both north and south of the Border - all rendered our task the more important.
Through chairing the work of the Expert Group I have learned a great deal. Much of that is set out in the pages that follow, in the hope that it may help others, as indeed it helped us. I recognise that Ministers and MSPs are not the only people interested in this work. Many organisations and parents expressed a strong interest over the last several months: I am very grateful to all who wrote or gave evidence.
The Group recognises that our Report only answers the questions we were asked. Research is ongoing, and more must be undertaken. Parents in Scotland may be confused as they hear claim and counter-claim in the media. This moving target was our context, as we addressed our remit. We trust that our Report will help all of us move forward and promote the rational debate proposed recently by the First Minister. We all share a common interest in the health and well being of all people in Scotland, especially our children.
Our Report contains a number of specific recommendations, which I hope you will consider and implement. Let me highlight three in particular:
urgent action to improve the range and quality of services provided to, and for, children with autism and their families (as proposed by the Public Health Institute of Scotland);
ongoing research into the causes of autism and Crohn's disease (as proposed by the Medical Research Council);
better information for parents about MMR, and the diseases it protects us against.
The Expert Group tried to remain immune to the barrage of media speculation about its work and allegations of in-fighting. Such reports may sell newspapers; they were untrue. We have done what the Scottish Executive asked us to do - no more, no less - in accord with the remit given to us. I can assure you that all the issues within our remit were subjected to a thorough questioning and robust review, from a wide-ranging set of viewpoints. I believe that the benefits inherent in that approach are evident in the report that follows.
One aspect of our approach should be mentioned. We were keen to be aware of what parents with young children actually thought about MMR. We asked Scottish Health Feedback to help. Under its auspices a broadly representative Parents' Reference Group was created. These parents were involved at the start of our process and in providing helpful comment to our draft. We believe our Report is the more credible because of this involvement and we certainly took on board their views.
I must acknowledge the very positive contribution of each and every member of the Expert Group. Appointed by Scottish Ministers, the Expert Group deliberately embraced a range of disciplines and backgrounds. The membership included not only doctors and scientists, but also parents of children with autism or Crohn's and a health visitor; not only educationalists and those from the Scottish Society for Autism, the National Autistic Society, and the National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease, but also from the wider consumer movement. I am grateful for the support they provided, and for the knowledge, insight, diligence and compassion that they brought to our work.
The Expert Group would wish me to acknowledge the essential and impartial contributions to our task of your officials, Mr James Brown, Dr Elizabeth Stewart, Mr James Preston, and in particular Mr Joe Brown.
I have pleasure in submitting to you the unanimous report of the Expert Group you established.
The Very Revd Graham Forbes
Chairman, MMR Expert Group