Doctors and other NHS staff will have to declare any gifts, payments or hospitality received from pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers, the Department of Health has announced.
The new measure, called the 'sunshine rule', is aimed at increasing transparency in the NHS and means that keeping a record of gifts and hospitality will be mandatory from next year. Staff that fail to disclose such information will face sanctions and disciplinary action.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was “disturbing” evidence that a small number of NHS staff had tried to influence purchasing decisions in return for gifts, payments or hospitality.
“Part of the problem is just how many sales reps are targeting our hospitals, with 65 reps on site at any one time according to a recent report. The NHS is indirectly paying for every one of those reps, through staff time and the amount paid for drugs and products," Hunt said.
“As with so many issues in the NHS, the answer is greater transparency. These tough new rules will for the first time expose improper relationships between staff and pharmaceutical companies. Only those serving their own self-interest should have anything to fear, with patients and taxpayers set to benefit."
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has welcomed the new 'sunshine rule' as a positive addition to the drive for disclosure and transparency in industry relationships.
ABPI executive director Virginia Acha said the pharmaceutical sector's self regulated code of practice already had strict requirements on the interaction between sales representatives and healthcare professionals, and the ABPI had led the way on disclosure of payments to healthcare professionals.
She added the rule would only cover a small proportion of important interaction between industry and healthcare requirements compared with its own disclosure requirements.
“For that common ambition for greater transparency to really improve relationships between healthcare professionals and industry, we also need to align on the great value of those relationships to deliver advances in science and treatment for patients, including research,” Acha said.
She added the ABPI would welcome the opportunity to work with the Department of Health and NHS England on the measures to maximise combined efforts on disclosure.