NHS England has published new guidelines 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 final guidance covers a range of measures, including:
• Setting consistent and clear minimum standards and clear guidelines for when staff should declare gifts and hospitality
• Requiring organisations to make registers of interests available for public scrutiny
• Underlining NHS England’s support for the Disclosure UK scheme, which publishes details of payments made to staff by the pharmaceutical industry
NHS bodies have worked together to finalise the guidance and will now ensure effective implementation of the plans. While the revised guidance applies to NHS bodies, it is commended for use by private sector, contractor and not-for profit organisations.