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26-09-2011 | General practice | Article

CCGs advised on conflicts of interest


RCGP Centre for Commissioning: Managing conflicts of interest in clinical commissioning groups

Careful planning and transparency in decision-making will enable GPs to avoid conflicts of interest in the new era of clinically led commissioning, according to guidance for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

The guidance, issued jointly by the RCGP Commissioning Centre and the NHS Confederation, sets out some key principles that it says can overcome such conflicts, which otherwise threaten to damage patients' confidence in the integrity of clinicians.

The report acknowledges highly publicised fears that GP commissioners will face multiple conflicts of interest in their dual roles as purchasers and providers, in particular from clashes between the interests of taxpayers and those of individual patients, or the companies and partnerships that GPs own or work for.

But it says that doctors can effectively manage these by "doing business properly", in terms of planning needs assessments, consultations and procurement processes from the outset, as well as by actively seeking out potential conflicts in advance and having clear and robust, but not overly prescriptive, rules and procedures.

Nevertheless, given that uncertainty currently remains over how to clearly define significant conflicts of interest for GPs and other clinical commissioners, the guidance also proposes a so-called 'Paxman test' for doctors to weigh up a particular set of circumstances.

"If you might be embarrassed if asked to explain a situation to an investigative journalist or reporter, a conflict of interest probably exists," it states.

RCGP chair, Dr Clare Gerada, said: "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."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price