NHS staff who fail to disclose payments and hospitality received from drug suppliers and medical device makers will be sanctioned under new regulation, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
- Rule requiring NHS bodies to keep register of gifts and hospitality will be included in 2016-17 standard contract
- Announcement follows recommendation by Lord Carter for English “Sunshine Act”
- Employers will decide on appropriate sanctions for staff who fail to declare gifts
NHS providers and commissioners will have to keep a log of payments, gifts and hospitality offered to staff from pharmaceutical companies in a bid to ensure relationships with suppliers are above board.
The “Sunshine rule” requiring organisations to keep the records will be written into the 2016-17 NHS standard contract, a Department of Health spokesman said.
It is unclear what sanctions organisations could face if they do not comply.
The move follows a recommendation by Lord Carter’s review into NHS productivity that an English equivalent to the US “Sunshine Act” be introduced. The American law requires all medical devices and supplies companies to report financial relationships with doctors and institutions, to uncover potential conflicts of interest.
Any member of NHS staff found not to be complying with the new disclosure rules will be subject to sanctions decided by their employer, the DH confirmed.
The government has stopped short of introducing new legislation. In an interview with HSJ last month, productivity minister Lord Prior had suggested legislation could be brought forward to police the relationship between doctors and suppliers.
Individuals can be prosecuted under existing legislation if they are found to have improperly accepted money from third parties.
Acts of bribery or fraud by people and companies are already covered Bribery Act 2010 and the Fraud Act 2006. Someone found guilty under the Bribery Act faces up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 prohibit offering any gifts in connection with the promotion of medicines to anybody qualified to supply or prescribe them.
Anybody convicted of an offence under these regulations faces a fine and up to two years imprisonment.
Speaking at the weekend, Mr Hunt said: “These tough new rules will, for the first time, expose improper relationships between staff and pharmaceutical companies. Only those serving their own self-interest should have anything to fear, with patients and taxpayers set to benefit.
“The Sunshine rule will come into force next year, and NHS organisations will have to maintain a hospitality register where staff will have to declare all gifts and hospitality they receive from pharmaceutical firms and medical devices manufacturers.
“It will be the responsibility of NHS organisations to make sure that their staff are accurately recording all gifts and hospitality, and to take disciplinary action against staff who are not doing so.”