Published: 24/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5947 Page 21

Alan Jones, independent NHS healthcare analyst and adviser

Last summer HSJ carried an article on PCTs forming partnerships with pharmaceutical companies (pages 18-19, 22 July 2004). The article by Kevin James of Wyeth UK described some of the ethics around such partnerships as well as outlining the launch of a guide to best practice published by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry in association with the NHS Alliance.

A market research survey by VIA International shows the framework has gone down very well in the NHS. The research consisted of structured in-depth telephone interviews with 100 primary care decision-makers across the UK. The sample included chief executives, clinical directors, commissioning directors, prescribing leads and pharmaceutical advisers.

Awareness of the framework was nearly 90 per cent and when asked how likely were they to use it for future working with the industry on a scale of one to six, the mean score was 4.3.

As regards the overall impressions of the document, 66 per cent were positive, with 27 per cent saying it provided useful guidelines.

Among the many comments made was that the framework contained useful guidelines for both sides and would encourage and enable partnerships to progress - although quite a few primary care trusts had their own set of guidelines and some said the new framework simply reinforced these.

Other comments made were that the framework clearly showed boundaries and responsibilities; was straightforward and user-friendly;

was sensible, workable and fair; gave good examples of published work to refer to and some had used the guidelines on joint working projects.

A smaller number said they remained somewhat suspicious of the industry.

The ABPI's NHS task force aims to continue to collect further examples of this kind of joint working to add to the framework.

Thus a second series of examples in which companies and NHS organisations are conducting joint working projects will be commissioned and distributed to all NHS organisations during 2005.

Governing such joint working is the industry code of practice, so it is worth also pointing out that an NHS guide to the code of practice was distributed widely to the NHS in 2004, including to many chief executives.