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Campaign launched to promote fair trade of medical supplies

BMA claims NHS supplies produced in dangerous and exploitative conditions

OnMedica staff

Monday, 23 February 2009

NHS medical supplies are often produced in unsafe and unethical conditions overseas, according to the BMA.

The BMA is today launching a campaign to promote fair trade of medical supplies to coincide with the beginning of Fair Trade Fortnight.

The campaign calls on healthcare workers and the public to contribute to a NHS consultation on ethical purchasing.

Dr Mahmood Bhutta, BMA advisor on the BMA's medical fair and ethical trade group, said there was evidence to suggest that many supplies used in the NHS were produced in unhealthy, unsafe and unfair working conditions.

“Workers in the developing world are poorly paid and are exposed to hazardous conditions where they risk serious injury and even death,” said Dr Bhutta.

“For example, many surgical instruments are made in Pakistan where workers work twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Some suffer serious injuries due to poor standards of health and safety.

“There is also a use of child labour, with some workers as young as seven. It seems perverse that labourers around the world are risking their lives to supply us with equipment to save British lives.”

The BMA is encouraging doctors and the public to take part in a NHS consultation on ethical procurement of medical supplies.

“Taxpayers have an opportunity to tell the NHS they want medical equipment purchased in line with fair and ethical trade guidelines,” added Dr Bhutta.

“The NHS body responsible for advising GPs and hospitals on the purchasing of medical equipment has recently produced a consultation document on this issue. I would urge anyone who cares to submit a response to that consultation.”

The BMA has also launched a facebook group for people who want to keep up with the latest information on the campaign.

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