A ‘very heavy’ marrow, a first edition novel, and a commemorative royal plate - gifts received by Norfolk NHS staff revealed
PUBLISHED: 18:16 01 April 2018 | UPDATED: 08:53 02 April 2018
A green marrow “the length of [an] arm but much thicker and very heavy”, a first edition of Gone with the Wind, and a commemorative plate of Prince William and his young family.
Those were just three of the gifts received by health service staff in Norfolk which were revealed as concerns were raised over conflicts of interest and how well they were recorded in NHS trusts.
While healthcare professionals are obliged to divulge any potential conflict, the current system for recording them is “not functioning adequately”, according to a report published in journal BMJ Open.
And as copies of gift and hospitality registers were requested under the Freedom of Information Act as part of the research, some of the gifts received by staff were revealed, as well as payments received for outside work and other
Some of the entries - which covered 2015/16 - were low in value, such as necklaces, gift vouchers, or lunches provided for staff meetings.
But other were more expensive including being a guest in the NorseCare Norwich City Football Club box, with lunch included, estimated to be worth £100.
Or payments of hundreds of pounds for speaking at conferences and events.
While some trusts revealed their full gifts and hospitality registers as well as their registers of interests, others did not respond or only returned some information to researchers.
And researchers gave each trust a transparency score based on a number of measurements.
In our region East of England Ambulance scored best with an 80pc score.
Norfolk Community Health and Care scored 60pc and has since made the data available online, which would boost their score.
The James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), in Gorleston, scored 40pc and said their register was available online.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), in King’s Lynn, also came in at 40pc, but their information was not available online.
Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust scored 20pc, and said publishing a register on their website would mean it would regularly be out of date. A spokesman said this would “not be being truly transparent.”
While the Norfolk and Norwich University hospital scored 0pc but said their declarations of interest were available online. A spokesman said they take their responsibility to be transparent seriously and last year a campaign was launched to raise awareness of the conflicts of interest guidance and their responsibilities.
Every trust said patients and members of the public could ask to receive a copy of registers of interest.
But researchers said a US-style system should be established, which requires all payments to doctors to be declared on an openly accessible central database.
“Information on conflict of interest is poorly collected, poorly managed, and poorly disclosed by NHS Trusts in England,” they said.
“The ongoing absence of transparency around conflict of interest in the UK may undermine public trust in the healthcare professions.
“Simple clear legislation and a requirement for open disclosure of conflict of interest to a central body, similar to that in the US, would present a simple and effective solution.”
Direct gifts and incentives have been banned by trade body the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry since 2010.
But pharmaceutical companies can pay clinicians to deliver professional development lectures, sponsor their attendance at conferences or educational events, and provide training to other clinicians.
The pharmaceutical industry reported around £115 million was spent in this area in 2015.