The GMC say “If you are in doubt about whether there is a conflict of interest, act as though there is. “

I sent the letter below to the GMC after reading their Guidance on declarations of interest:

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From: Gordon Peter (NHSFORTHVALLEY)
Sent: 27 November 2013 13:09
To: standards@gmc-uk.org
Subject: Declarations of Interest and doctors

27th November 2013,

Dear GMC,
Each year I sign my annual appraisal form, including the probity section, to confirm that I have followed my NHS Board policy on conflicts of interest. I have never had any such declarations to make so I have always signed with probity: https://holeousia.wordpress.com/declarationof-interests/

However FOI research to all 22 Scottish NHS Boards has demonstrated that Boards universally lack – either with no policy, or no register, and not infrequently without both:

https://holeousia.wordpress.com/category/medical-writings/pharmaceutical-industry-and-medical-education/nhs-hospitality-registers/

So my question is:

How many doctors are signing off annual appraisal but have not registered COI with their NHS Board or Trust? And thus have the GMC had any reports of doctors who have not declared COI?

In terms of “regulating doctors, ensuring good medical practice” this surely is a legitimate and very real concern. Last year £40 million was paid by Pharmaceutical industry to healthcare workers for Continuing Medical “Education” and recent reports have evidenced that up to 3/4s of Guideline Panellists have “ties to industry”

I would be grateful for your thoughts on this.

Yours sincerely,
 Peter Gordon


On the 14th January 2014, I had this most helpful reply from the GMC:

From: GMC
Sent: 14 January 2014 14:59
To: Gordon Peter (NHS FORTH VALLEY)
Subject: RE: FOI query

Our ref: F13/5915/EH

Dear Dr Gordon
Thank you for your email below. Our Standards Team forwarded your email to us to look into whether we could provide the information you request. I apologise for the delay in responding to you.

I’m afraid we don’t hold the necessary data to be able to tell you how many doctors are signing off annual appraisal but have not registered conflicts of interest with their NHS Board or Trust. However, in relation to whether the GMC have had any reports of doctors who have not declared conflicts of interest more generally, we can provide some information which I hope will be helpful.

When we investigate a case against a doctor we record some information concerning the allegations made in an electronically searchable way. We also record a very brief description of the allegations made in a ‘free text’ field.

We have looked at cases opened since 2007 (the first full year for which we have this facility) for those with allegations falling within the following groups – ‘fail to declare interests’, ‘interests affect patient care’, ‘undeclared interest – other’, ‘undeclared interest in home’ and ‘undeclared interest in hospital’. We have located 201 cases opened since 2007, relating to 199 doctors, where there is an allegation falling within any of these categories.

However, we cannot extract the specific figure you require from this search. I have therefore used the ‘allegation description’ field to assist in identifying any cases where a Health Board/Trust alleges a failure to declare a conflict of interest to them, as per your email. I have located six such cases. I should stress that this figure results from a limited manual search of the description field and not a review of all information held on all 201 cases.

Of these six cases, two are on-going, one was closed with advice and the remaining three were heard by a Fitness to Practise Panel.

I should explain at this point that as allegation categories are selected by the Investigation Officer when we begin to investigate a case, it often happens that, if the doctor is referred to a hearing, they are not referred on the basis of all allegations originally recorded. For example, allegations may not progress to this stage due to a lack of evidence.

Therefore, of the three cases heard by a panel, in only one case was an allegation concerning non-declaration of a conflict of interest to the Trust considered by the Panel. I have attached the public minutes for your information.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any concerns regarding the handling of this request please contact Julian Graves, Information Access Manager, at jgraves@gmc-uk.org.

Kind regards
Redacted

Information Access Officer
Tel no: 0161 923 6314

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