Managing conflicts of interest in the NHS

The public rightly expect the highest standards of behaviour in the NHS, and we take our responsibility as custodians of taxpayers’ money very seriously. Decisions involving the use of NHS funds should never be influenced by outside interests or expectations of private gain, but we recognise that conflicts of interest are unavoidable in complex systems.

NHS staff need to be empowered to use good judgement in managing conflicts of interest effectively, and need to be safeguarded so they can continue to work innovatively with partners whilst also providing transparency to the taxpayer.

New guidance on managing conflicts of interest in the NHS

On 9 February 2017, we issued new guidance on managing conflicts of interest in the NHS. This guidance:

  • introduces common principles and rules for managing conflicts of interest
  • provides simple advice to staff and organisations about what to do in common situations
  • supports good judgement about how interests should be approached and managed.

Take a look at the guidance: Conflicts of Interest in the NHS – Guidance for staff and organisations

The guidance came into force on 1 June 2017 and is applicable to the following NHS organisations:

  • Clinical Commissioning Groups (‘CCGs’) via the statutory guidance to CCGs issued by NHS England
  • NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts – which include secondary care trusts, mental health trusts, community trusts, and ambulance trusts
  • NHS England (through our Standards of Business Conduct).

The guidance does not apply to bodies not listed above (i.e. independent and private sector organisations, general practices, social enterprises, community pharmacies, community dental practices, optical providers, local authorities).

However, we invite these organisations to consider implementing the guidance as a means to effectively manage conflicts of interest and provide safeguards for their staff.

Supporting implementation

To help organisations and staff implement this guidance a suite of tools and supporting materials is available.

Organisations should now have reviewed their processes against the guidance and should have amended these as the guidance is now in effect. The annexes to the guidance include template forms to support consistent declarations and publishing of interests.

To make implementation easier we have released a model policy which includes the content of the guidance.  Organisations can adopt this policy or use parts of it to update their current policies and procedures.

To help staff members to understand what they need to do and how the guidance applies to them we will release some short guides for provider managers, secondary care clinicians and secondary care medics. These guides will be published over the Summer.