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NHS England is today unveiling a comprehensive package of measures aimed at clamping down on conflicts of interest and ensuring the NHS is one of the leading healthcare organisations in the world in tackling such issues.
The plans are designed to bring a stronger, more consistent approach to managing potential and existing conflicts of interest across the NHS, meaning patients and the public can have full confidence in how NHS funding is invested.
The measures announced today are:
- Revised guidance for CCGs on managing conflicts of interest. The guidance includes a number of strengthened measures, including publically available registers of gifts and hospitality and increasing the number of lay members on CCG governing bodies to support conflict of interest management and provide extra scrutiny.
- A cross NHS task and finish group, chaired by Sir Malcolm Grant, will be established to develop a full set of rules that can be adopted right across the healthcare system. This will involve new proposals to ensure hospitals, their clinicians, and procurement staff are free from unmanaged conflicts of interest, particularly in respect of drugs and devices paid for by the NHS, including those billed as high-cost “pass through” items to NHS England. It will also help support the shared Carter “rational procurement” agenda.
- A new requirement on providers in the 2016/17 NHS Standard Contract to maintain and publish a register of gifts, hospitality and conflicts of interest. In line with best practice, this move will ensure that there is greater transparency in place.
- NHS England’s internal conflict of interest policy will be toughened up. This will include more stringent safeguards on the role of interest groups, lobbyists, and commercial organisations in specialised commissioning.
NHS England is also today publishing an assessment report to review how conflicts of interest are currently being managed and how the existing statutory guidance for CCGs was being implemented. The report has helped to identify examples of good practice, but also areas for improvement and it is these findings that have shaped the revised CCG guidance.
The package of measures is not aimed at limiting partnership working that benefits patients or stopping the receipt of small gifts to healthcare professionals from grateful members of the public. Instead the new plans will demonstrate that serious action is being taken to address concerns and move the NHS in line with ‘sunshine’ rules that exist in other countries.
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “In a tax funded health system, the public rightly demand high standards of probity from both NHS staff and health care suppliers. Recent cases in the UK and indeed worldwide have underscored the need for action. ‘Sunshine’ rules to bring greater transparency, tougher restrictions on conflicts of interest, and clearer guidelines on industry partnerships and influence will benefit patients and protect taxpayers.”