Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has unveiled new measures to stamp out corruption in the National Health Service, making it mandatory for healthcare workers to declare any gifts received from pharmaceutical companies.
As per the new ‘Sunshine rule’, which comes into force next year, NHS staff who fail to disclose perks received from drug companies could face being disciplined, dismissed or even sent to jail for breach of the Bribery Act.
Under the plans, all NHS organisations will reportedly be expected to keep an up-to-date hospitality register housing details of all hospitality and gifts received from pharma and med tech companies.
The decision was spurred by a recent Telegraph investigation which found “disturbing evidence of senior NHS directors getting thousands of pounds and taken on expensive trips by firms lobbying to get their drugs used,” according to the paper.
Writing in The Telegraph, Hunt said the investigation suggests some NHS staff and professionals making decisions on which therapies to use “may have been influenced by extravagant hospitality," and that “it’s hard not to conclude that some sales reps have been ripping the NHS off, and diverting taxpayers’ money away from patient care”.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry says it welcomes the ‘Sunshine rule’ as a positive addition to the industry’s disclosure initiative.
While the Code of Practice “already has strict requirements on the interaction between sales representatives and healthcare professionals”, the Association said it would “welcome the opportunity to work with the Department of Health and NHS England as plans for the ‘Sunshine Rule’ develop, to ensure that we maximise our combined efforts on disclosure for the benefit of patients and the public”.