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Medical supply chain workers ‘treated unethically’

15 May 2014

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The rights of workers in medical supply chains should be better supported, the British Medical Association (BMA) has claimed. 

The NHS spends over £40 billion on procuring goods and services each year, however evidence is emerging that the basic employment rights of workers involved are infringed, and their health is at risk. 

New guidance released by the BMA calls on GPs and commissioners to adopt ethical procurement, encouraging them to raise the issue in their organisation. 

Dr Simon Poole, chair of the BMA’s GP commissioning and service development committee, said: “There is significant support for ethical procurement from the medical profession with a recent BMA survey of doctors showing that 88%. 

“This guidance is a step in the journey to inform doctors and managers in clinical commissioning groups and the wider NHS of the impact which can be made through a commitment to ethical procurement. This represents an opportunity to develop and embed structures within our NHS to care not only for patients, but also for those who work to support the infrastructure and materials we so often take for granted in our daily work.”

Dr Tim Ballard, vice chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “GPs in the UK deliver excellent care to more than one million patients every day and many are our leaders in clinical commissioning. It is important that the high quality care that we deliver in the UK is not at the expense of the wellbeing of others.

“Providing care involves procuring items from many other countries. It is important that GPs and clinical commissioners do everything possible to ensure that the goods they buy are ethical. This new guidance challenges GPs and CCGs to take steps towards guaranteeing that everyone involved in producing the medical supplies we need to keep our NHS sustainable and our patients safe, work under conditions and with workers’ rights in line with internationally recognised conventions and local laws.

“The college welcomes this guidance – and the wider work of the Medical Fair and Ethical Trade Group – and we look forward to working together and with other partners to keep the NHS sustainable, ethical and fair.”

The guidance is available to view on the BMA website.