PolicyBristol, which brings together diverse policy-relevant work from across the University of Bristol, has produced a briefing called 'Conflicts of interest in healthcare: NHS procurement rules must be clarified' (PDF). This research takes stock of recent developments in NHS governance and explores ways to clarify procurement rules.
For over 15 years, the Government has been rolling out a strategy to spur improvement in the provision of NHS healthcare services in England through patients’ choice. Since the creation of this quasi-market for publicly-funded healthcare services, the existing strategy has resulted in legal challenges that go beyond well-established public law guarantees and require new solutions.
The rules applicable to the commissioning and procurement of NHS services in England have been subject to significant changes since the adoption of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The subsequent adoption of the National Health Service (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 have created a complex network of rules that also result in complex and parallel remedies. Conflicts of interest, which are unavoidable in a quasi-market, are one area where the rules are particularly complex and unclear. New measures introduced by drugs firms to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest when payments are made to NHS clinicians have been criticised by NHS England as not going far enough.
This project provided the opportunity to bring together academics, NHS practitioners and lawyers to share their experiences of working with the regulations. This policy briefing summarises some of their key insights and policy recommendations.