This site is intended for health professionals only

GPs need protection against conflicts of interest, say legal experts

Medical defence experts have called on CCGs to strengthen their governance structures to avoid their GP members being accused of having conflicting interests, after a survey showed this is was a major concern for almost two-thirds of the profession.

The Medical Protection Society survey of over 1,000 GPs and practice managers found 59% were concerned over conflicts of interest with regards to the introduction of CCGs, while eight-in-10 were worried about the impact of CCG budgets and two-thirds about time constraints.

The MPS said CCGs must put in place ‘clear and robust’ governance structures and processes to ensure that both perceived and actual conflicts are dealt with in an open way to ‘protect the patient-doctor relationship’.

MPS medicolegal adviser Dr Richard Stacey said: ‘MPS has always had concerns that CCGs could place GPs in a potentially challenging position of being not just the patient advocate but also the budget holder and we believe this leaves GPs vulnerable to accusations of conflicting interests.

‘We have received a number of calls from members expressing these same concerns for the last few months and this survey not only confirms MPS’s fears but those of GPs and practice managers.’

It comes as the BMA warned that any GP who had financial interests in a private sector company who might be awarded a contract should ‘consider seriously whether they should be a member of a CCG governing body’.

A BMA spokesperson said: ‘The BMA has a long track record of supporting the principles behind greater clinician involvement in commissioning as if it is done properly it could present real benefits to patients. But this must not be done in a way that compromises the relationship between doctors and their patients.’

In December, a Pulse investigation revealed that more than one in five CCG board members have financial interests in private healthcare providers exposing them to multiple possible conflicts of interest when commissioning services. The analysis of nearly 900 CCG board members’ registered interests shows that 23% were directors, owners, partners or shareholders in private healthcare providers, or have a family member with an interest in a private healthcare provider.