A new initiative will see NHS staff banned from accepting gifts in excess of £50, while new tough rules related to hospitality have also been brought in.
The first national code on conflicts of interests dictates that all NHS staff must declare any form of hospitality received, in addition to the new legislation on gifts.
All doctors and managers will be obligated to record any form of hospitality in excess of £25, with gifts in excess of £50 pounds banned outright.
Health officials indicated their belief that the new rules will help sweep away a cloud that currently hangs over the health service following previous dealings with industry lobbyists.
In accordance with the new policy, every constituent organisation of the NHS will be required to run a register listing any potential conflicts of interest held by staff.
These will include hospitality received, involvement in sponsored events and private business interests.
Sir Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England, suggested that the new legislation would restore faith in the health service, after previous attempts to tackle conflict of interests had proved to be rather impotent.
“I think there is a cloud hanging over some aspects of the NHS when it comes to the handling of conflicts of interests. The public expect the highest standards of behaviour in the NHS, but we know there are times when the NHS has failed to meet this expectation. We are trying to embed the principle that you don’t get taken out for a fancy dinner and ignore it. One of the critical points here is transparency.”
The Royal College of Surgeons also supported the move, with Claire Marks, president of the organisation, indicating that this new policy was much needed.
“Clear guidance for NHS staff on managing any potential conflicts of interest is long overdue. The NHS is a complex organisation in which conflicts of interest may arise, and they must be handled with openness, transparency and consistency to ensure all staff work in the best interests of patients.”
Marx suggested that restoring public faith in the health service should be considered a priority.
“For surgeons, our own guidance – Good Surgical Practice – is explicit that surgeons must demonstrate probity in all aspects of their professional practice, which includes declaring any commercial involvement, or work outside of the NHS. Patients rightly have a huge amount of trust in the medical profession and this guidance will help doctors to think about any potential conflicts of interest and help them to act appropriately at all times.”