NHS England proposes £50 cap on gifts for nurses and other staff

A consultation has been launched by NHS England in an attempt to control conflicts of interest across the health service.
nurse gift

Nurses and other NHS staff will not be able to accept gifts worth more than £50 under new proposals about conflicts of interest.

NHS England has this week launched a consultation covering gifts, hospitality, sponsorship and additional employment.

The proposals aim to clampdown on inappropriate behaviour and strengthen the management of conflicts of interest.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) code currently says that registered nurses and midwives must ‘refuse all but the most trivial gifts, favours or hospitality as accepting them could be interpreted as an attempt to gain preferential treatment’.

Appropriate treatment

The NHS England consultation states that although it is appropriate to accept gifts from patients as a legitimate expression of gratitude, gifts over the value of £50 should be declined and multiple gifts, received over a 12-month period from the same patient should not ultimately exceed more than £50 in total.

It adds that where it would cause offence to decline the gift it can be donated to charity.

Gifts investigation

An investigation by Nursing Standard last month revealed that gifts offered to NHS staff included a Rolex watch, cash in envelopes and a trout.

Wedding gifts, shop vouchers, two jars of jam and a £200 donation to a member of staff’s relative’s surgery were all among presents that were accepted in the past five years.

The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI) launched its own Disclosure UK database earlier this year which has details of benefits or payments by the pharmaceutical industry to NHS staff during 2015.

Payments or benefits can be for a range of services including chairing meetings and training.

Hundreds of nurses and their payments are listed on the database which reveals the highest fee paid for a nurse’s services and consultancy in 2015 as £16,750.

Full disclosures

NHS England proposes that payments and benefits to NHS staff or organisations from the pharmaceutical industry should be fully disclosed and made public.

Open University senior lecturer in health Marc Cornock said: ‘It seems more sensible and efficient to have one piece of national guidance than varying pieces of information from different bodies.’

NHS England chair Sir Malcolm Grant said: ‘We have a responsibility to use the £110 billion healthcare budget provided by the taxpayer to the best effect possible for patients.

'Spending decisions in healthcare should never be influenced by thoughts of private gain.’

An NMC spokesperson told Nursing Standard the regulator will respond to the NHS England consultation in due course.

'The NMC code, which all nurses and midwives must uphold in order to remain on the register, provides clear guidance on accepting gifts and hospitality,' the spokesperson added.

Further information

Managing Conflicts of Interest in the NHS: A Consultation

Cash, a trout, Rolex watch and garden hose among gifts offered to NHS staff, Nursing Standard reveals