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Avoid conflicts of interest in commissioning

College offers guidance to CCGs on avoiding conflict of interest

Louise Prime

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Clinical commissioning groups should plan carefully to avoid the many potential conflicts of interest in commissioning, the RCGP Centre for Commissioning and NHS Confederation have warned. Today they have launched joint guidance on how to recognise, avoid and manage conflicts of interest.

The two institutions caution that failing either to predict and avoid such conflicts, or to properly manage them, could have serious consequences – including gravely damaging the confidence of the public, as well as providers and regulators, in the new commissioning system.

Managing Conflicts of Interest in Clinical Commissioning Groups aims to help GPs and other to diminish the risks through proper planning, early intervention and good governance. It advises: 

  • Do business properly – potential conflicts of interest can be far more easily recognised and addressed if, right from the start, CCGs ensure transparency of needs assessments, consultation mechanisms and commissioning strategies.
  • Be proactive, not reactive – identify potential conflicts of interest before selecting people to join CCGs, and agree in advance how to address any new conflict arising.
  • Emphasise that everyone on the CCG is expected to declare potential conflicts of interest, and to exempt themselves from decisions where there could be conflict – but back this up with prompts and checks.
  • Be balanced and proportionate – set rules that allow efficient, transparent and fair decision-making without unnecessarily slowing down the process. 

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the RCGP, said: “GPs are facing a tremendous range of new challenges with clinically led commissioning and I hope this publication will prove invaluable in helping them recognise and address potential conflicts of interest.

“For all GPs, maintaining the highest ethical standards in all their activities is fundamental, and this applies to the commissioning of healthcare services through their role in clinical commissioning groups.”

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “While some conflicts of interest are inevitable, our publication makes it clear that in most cases it is possible to address them by ensuring that they are identified and managed in the right way.”

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