NHS employers should take note of new NHS England guidelines on managing conflicts of interest. The guidance, which applies to CCGs, NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts and NHS England comes into force on 1 June 2017. It revises previous guidance on standards of business conduct.
The guidance is available on NHS England’s website and includes clarity over what is deemed acceptable and appropriate, as well as what might not be. It addresses many aspects of the workings of the NHS. These may all include employment issues. However, particularly relevant will be guidance on outside employment; private practice (especially the request to disclose this in reviews); hospitality and gifts.
NHS bodies should start reviewing their current processes now so that they can be amended in time for 1 June 2017. To make this easier, a model policy incorporating the guidance will be published next month. This can be adopted and adapted by organisations as they wish.
The guidance states that staff who fail to disclose any relevant interests or who otherwise breach an organisation’s rules and policies relating to the management of conflicts of interest are subject to investigation and, where appropriate, disciplinary action. Further, organisations should consider reporting regulated healthcare professionals to their regulator if they believe that they have acted improperly, so that these concerns can be investigated.
It is crucial that staff are aware of their organisation’s policies and the possible consequences of any breach. NHS England will be releasing short guides for staff groups in April 2017 to assist members of staff in understanding what they need to do and how the guidance applies to them. These will be supplemented by WebEx sessions in May 2017.