Conflicts of interest under clinical commissioning could “badly undermine the confidence of regulators, providers, and patients” in the NHS, the NHS Confederation and Royal College of General Practice Centre for Commissioning have warned.

The bodies have jointly publish guidance, Managing Conflicts of Interest in Clinical Commissioning Groups, which says the risks can be mitigated with early intervention and good planning and governance.

Recommendations include transparency of needs assessments, consultation mechanisms and commissioning strategies; proactively identifying conflicts of interest; agreeing in advance how different situations would be handled; and having rules which are not “constraining people by being overly complex or slow”.

NHS Confederation Mike Farrar said in a statement: “There have been considerable concerns raised by MPs and professional bodies alike about this issue since the Health Bill was introduced and commissioning pathfinders were established. It’s a fundamental issue for clinical commissioning croups to get to grips with, but there are some simple ways to manage it. It is important that people have the information and guidance they need to deal with these tricky issues.

“While some conflicts of interest are inevitable, our publication makes it clear that in most cases it is possible to address them by ensuring that they are identified and managed in the right way. No one wants confidence in their healthcare professionals undermined. That’s why tackling the issue head on now, and providing clarity for clinical commissioners about what are unacceptable conflicts of interest, will help minimise the impact on the commissioning model.”

RCGP chair Clare Gerada said: “GPs are facing a tremendous range of new challenges with clinically-led commissioning and I hope this publication will prove invaluable in helping them recognise and address potential conflicts of interest.

“For all GPs, maintaining the highest ethical standards in all their activities is fundamental, and this applies to the commissioning of healthcare services through their role in clinical commissioning groups.”