February 9, 2017
Managing Conflicts of Interest in the NHS
In October 2016, Transparency International’s Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Programme submitted a response to the consultation on Managing Conflicts of Interest in the NHS
The UK spends 9.9% of GDP on public and private healthcare, with private expenditure only accounting for 1.5%. The NHS England annual budget alone is set to rise to £120 billion with the vast majority being spent on equipment and services. The complex nature of the health system, a lack of adequate oversight and this level of resources makes the health sector highly vulnerable to conflicts of interest. Improving the transparency of interactions between NHS staff and other individuals and organisations, and minimising the variation in conflicts of interest rules across the NHS, is vital to fighting corruption.
Main points of our position are:
- We support the introduction of consistent thresholds for gifts and hospitality received by NHS staff from all individuals and organisations, including both patients and suppliers.
- We recommend that all NHS organisations in the UK require all gifts, hospitality or other inducements received by all staff to be collected in registers and disclosed in an open data format.
- To be effective the information disclosed should be comprehensive, for example including the estimated value of the gift or hospitality received.
- We believe this will have a significant effect on increasing transparency and accountability, and so prevent large losses to corruption and waste through the decisions that NHS staff make, and maintain public confidence in the NHS in the long term.
We have focused our response on the issues around gifts, hospitality and the form of publication, but would welcome the opportunity to explore these and other questions further as part of the wider consultation process.
The updated policy has now been published here: www.england.nhs.uk/coi
The new guidance, to be discussed along with the response to public consultation at the NHS England board meeting on 9 February 2017, will reflect the feedback received and if endorsed, the policy will come into force on 1 June 2017.
Written by Sophie Peresson, Director of TI’s Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Programme