All NHS staff will have to declare any gift or hospitality from the pharmaceutical industry as part of their employment contract from 2016, in a clampdown on accepting perks announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt on 23 August 2015.
Every NHS trust and clinical commissioning group in England will be expected to keep an up-to-date register of any perks given to staff by drug and medical device companies.
Under the new “sunshine rule”, NHS staff found to be accepting extravagant gifts and lobbying for unneeded or overly expensive medicines could be punished, the Department of Health said in a statement. And any member of staff who fails to make a full disclosure would face disciplinary action for being in breach of their contract.
“These tough new rules will for the first time expose improper relationships between staff and pharmaceutical companies,” says Hunt. “Only those serving their own self-interest should have anything to fear, with patients and taxpayers set to benefit.”
What will be defined as a gift or hospitality under the rules has yet to be agreed. It is also unclear whether community pharmacists will be expected to make a declaration on the clinical commissioning group register.
Under current legislation, the Human Medical Regulations 2012 prohibit offering any gifts in connection with the promotion of medicines to any person who is qualified to supply or prescribe medicines. Conviction can lead to a two-year prison sentence or a fine.
Acts of bribery or fraud that involve perks can be a criminal offence under the Bribery Act 2010 and the Fraud Act 2006.