On October 2016, the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), with over 250 company members, published significant changes to its Code of Business Practice. While the ABHI Code represents a non-statutory scheme it is commercially important to be aware of its guiding principles in the company interactions with healthcare professionals and other customers and when developing or updating compliance policies and procedures.
These changes to the ABHI Code are triggered by the implementation of the changes brought by the new Medtech Europe Code of Business Practice. As discussed in our advisory, one of the key changes being brought by the new ABHI Code is the phasing out of direct sponsorship to individual healthcare professionals. From 1 January 2019, the end of the transitional period, member companies will not be able to provide financial or in-kind support directly to individual healthcare professionals to cover the costs of their attendance at third-party organised educational events. There are two exceptions to this general prohibition: (i) the support provided by member companies to individual healthcare professionals for attendance at procedure training meetings organised by third parties and, (ii) the support provided to individual healthcare professionals engaged by the member companies as consultants to speak at a satellite symposium. The Code does not prevent, however, member companies from providing support to such events in other ways that are considered appropriate, such as via educational grants or other types of funding such as grants and charitable donations.
Another significant change brought by the new Code is a set of new “sunshine rules” that will affect the provision of educational grants. From 1 January 2018, member companies will be required to gather the data regarding the educational grants provided to healthcare organisations with a view to publicly disclosing them from 1 January 2019.
The information to be disclosed will be the aggregate amount of all the grants provided to each healthcare organisation during the previous reporting year. It is anticipated that this information will be disclosed in the Medtech public platform currently being built for this purpose. Where the educational grant is supporting an educational event, such events must comply with a new Conference Vetting System.
The new version of the ABHI code indicates a renewed commitment from the medical technology industry to ethical compliance, particularly in its relationships with healthcare professionals. For many medical technology companies this is still a new area and the ABHI is proactively providing a structure for companies to work towards the highest standards of behaviour. NHS representatives have voiced their support for this ABHI initiative and commended it as a precedent for other suppliers to the NHS.