New NHS guidance on avoiding conflicts of interest

NEW guidelines to strengthen the management of potential conflicts of interest among NHS staff have been published by NHS England.

Guidance will permit staff to receive small tokens of gratitude from patients, for example a box chocolate, but will require them to decline anything that could be seen to affect professional judgement. Gifts with a value over £50 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).

The guidance has emerged from a six-week consultation conducted by NHS England in September of last year in which all interested parties were invited offer to views on gifts, hospitality, outside employment and private practice, sponsorship and other interests. The resulting proposals were bench marked against best practice in other industries.

Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England, said: "The public rightly expects NHS staff to behave appropriately and use the healthcare budget to achieve the best outcomes for patients. While behaviour is exemplary in virtually all instances, there are times when more could have been done to prevent standards slipping.

"This new guidance will bring a consistent approach to conflicts of interest and ensure that the public can have faith in the integrity of the NHS."

The new guidance – if endorsed by the NHS England Board – will come into force on June 1.

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