Jeremy Hunt has made it mandatory for healthcare workers to declare all gifts from pharmaceuticals companies, or they could face being disciplined, dismissed or sent to jail.
The health secretary’s new ‘sunshine rule’ will come into force next year, and all GP groups, along with hospitals, will be expected to keep an up-to-date hospitality register housing details of all hospitality and gifts received from pharma and med tech companies.
This comes after an investigation by The Telegraph that suggested some senior NHS directors were “getting thousands of pounds and taken on expensive trips by firms lobbying to get their drugs used”.
Writing in the newspaper, Hunt said: “Disturbing evidence has come to my attention that small numbers of NHS staff have tried to influence NHS purchasing decisions in return for payment, gifts or hospitality from pharmaceutical firms and medical device manufacturers.
“This is a complete abuse of their position and will be shocking to the vast majority of staff who want the best for patients. 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,” he added.
The health minister said that the solution to this is greater transparency, and that for the first time improper relationships between staff and pharmaceutical companies will be exposed.
“Only those serving their own self-interest should have anything to fear, with patients and taxpayers set to benefit,” Hunt stated.