NHS England criticised for not enforcing its own rules on conflicts of interest

By agency reporter
September 19, 2018

Transparency International is deeply concerned by an admission by NHS England (NHSE) that almost all NHS Trusts have failed to publish the interests of decision-making staff at least once per year.

A recent survey by NHSE found only five per cent of acute trusts and 20 per cent of community and mental health trusts are fulfilling their contractual obligations to publish the necessary information. Conflicts of interest in healthcare can lead to decisions being made based on the interests of individuals, rather than the population as a whole. It can result in wasted taxpayer money and in many circumstances damage the quality of healthcare provided.

In 2016 Transparency International made a submission to a NHSE consultation on conflicts of interest and last year new guidelines were put into place. However the response of NHSE to a such poor take up amongst trusts has been to refer them back to these guidelines. NHSE must do more to enforce these rules and consider penalising those trusts that fail to comply.

Rachel Cooper, Director of Transparency International Pharmaceuticals and Health, said: “Conflicts of [this] nature in the NHS are a serious corruption risk that, if left unaddressed, can at best lead to the wasting of taxpayers money and at the very worst damage the quality of care provided to patients by the NHS. The NHS Counter Fraud Agency estimates £1.25 billion  is lost every year to fraud. Corruption within healthcare can very often be a matter of life and death.”

“Transparency International was pleased when NHS England took steps to combat conflicts of interest but it’s deeply disappointing that almost all trusts are failing to publish the interests of decision-making staff. 

“With so many trusts simply ignoring their contractual obligations, to publish such registers, NHS England must start to enforce their own rules and penalise those trusts that fail to comply. Not doing so will leave the very honest attempts at reform open to accusations of being toothless and far too easy to disregard. The poor adherence seen so far only suggests that trusts are incapable of conducting best practice off their own backs.”

* Download Transparency International's submission on Managing Conflicts of Interest in the NHS here

* Transparency International UK http://www.transparency.org.uk/

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