18 June 2008 | Paul Snell
The NHS must develop guidelines on ethical buying for its purchasers, two studies have advised.
Research co-authored by NHS PASA and the Ethical Trading Initiative found significant barriers to improving ethical procurement among NHS buyers. These included limited knowledge and resources on the subject, no culture of audit or due diligence in the organisation and no system to collect information about supplier practices.
The report suggested the development of an Ethical Procurement Framework, which would allow buyers to benchmark themselves against five areas - policy, people, process, supplier engagement and measurement and results.
Their findings come only a week after the British Medical Association published a study into the ethical trade of surgical instruments that revealed concerns over the use of child labour, health and safety and lack of worker rights in manufacturing.
The Sialkot region of Pakistan produces two-thirds of the world's surgical instruments, and the UK purchases around 9 per cent of the 100 million a year output. The BMA said the NHS could exert influence down its supply chain to improved ethical standards in the country.
PASA's study also suggested a centralised approach to ethical procurement in the NHS would be more effective to develop guidance, templates and research into the issue.