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28.07.16

NHS task and finish improvement group to tighten conflict of interest rules

A new NHS England task and finish improvement group is in the process of developing stricter rules on potential conflicts of interest such as gifts to medical practitioners.

In a blog post on the NHS England website, Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, chair of NHS England, said that the group had agreed that a “principles based” approach was not enough and “clear rules” should be agreed.

For example, the group has now agreed that staff can accept gifts from patients, but should declare any gift worth over £25, and should decline any gift over £5 from suppliers.

Professor Grant said: “The NHS benefits from knowledge, skills and expertise that has been gained by employees, non-executives and advisers in different yet often closely related contexts. An example of this would be clinically-led commissioning by GPs through CCGs, for which we have recently issued specific advice. 

“Our concern is to ensure that these other interests do not come into conflict with public duty. This calls for transparency and scrupulous behaviour in identifying potential conflicts of interest and avoiding their crystallisation into actual conflicts of interest.”

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), has also told the group about the ABPI-managed Disclosure UK initiative, which publishes payments from pharmaceutical companies to UK clinicians. Last year, about 70% of recipients of the £340m paid consented to have their data published.

Professor Grant said that although the initiative was “an important first step,” eventually all payments from industry to health professionals should be made public.

He said that the group will consider a further range of issues before opening a formal consultation in the autumn, with the next session considering the best publication regime for registers of interest to ensure transparency.

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