Conflicts of interest in the NHS

Really, given the funding crisis in the NHS, did this need consultation and publication? Surely, the management of each Trust could be trusted couldn’t they?

Whilst some areas of the country are restricting operations, in others A&E are so crowded the corridors are now virtual wards, and patients are suffering, NHS England is concerning itself with the value of gifts staff can receive. Whilst they do this, patients are not being treated, patients are getting worse and suffering. Where are their priorities?

NHS England is publishing new guidelines today that will strengthen the management of conflicts of interest and ensure that the NHS is a world leader for transparent and accountable healthcare.

The guidance will permit staff, such as nurses, to receive a box of chocolates or other small tokens of gratitude from patients but will require them to decline anything that could be seen to affect their professional judgement. Gifts with a value over £50, accepted on behalf of organisations, will need to be declared. It will also be standard practice for NHS commitments to take precedence over private practice, and for any member of staff – clinical or non-clinical – to declare outside employment and the details of where and when this takes place although not earnings at this stage.

In September last year NHS England launched a six-week consultation for all interested parties to make their voices heard about proposals which cover gifts, hospitality, outside employment, and private practice, sponsorship, and other interests. The proposals were bench marked against best practice in other industries.

The new guidance, discussed at the NHS England board meeting today, will reflect the feedback received and if endorsed, the policy will  come into force on June 1.