Clinical commissioning groups need guidance on conflicts of interest

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) need guidance as conflicts of interests for board members are set to increase, Londonwide LMCs have said.

Dr Drage: a statutory constitution for CCGs is expected to be published by the DoH in the autumn.
Dr Drage: a statutory constitution for CCGs is expected to be published by the DoH in the autumn.

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said that conflicts of interest were becoming increasingly apparent in CCGs.

Conflicts of interest are popping up ‘all over the place at the moment’, she said.

No guidance currently exists on how CCGs should handle conflicts of interest, but Dr Drage argued that such guidance was becoming increasingly necessary.

‘There clearly needs to be very specific recognition of the reality that most GPs are involved in other things.’

Dr Drage said that although GP commissioners would not be responsible for primary medical services contracts, they would be required to commission primary care services contracts, which may be carried out by GPs.

‘GPs will always be in a place to tender for work, previously done by hospitals and now done in primary care,’ Dr Drage said

Clear guidance on registering and declaring the conflicts of interest of GPs on commissioning boards was extremely important, she said.

‘Those interests have to be declared. There has to be a register,’ Dr Drage said.

‘When it comes to the NHS, to lives and to health, breaching those standards needs to be watertight,’ she added.

Dr Drage’s comments come after a concerned GP in Harrow, north west London, wrote to Londonwide LMCs about a possible conflict of interest on their local CCG board.

The concerned GP said that the GP chairwoman of a CCG in Brent, Dr Etheldreda Kong, was also the director of a private company running walk-in centres in Harrow.

‘How would such a PCT (NHS Brent and Harrow cluster) be able to decommission such an expensive contract if a member of the board of directors, which is making the decisions, is conflicted,’ the GP asked.

A spokesperson from NHS Brent said: ‘Dr Kong became the interim chair of the Brent CCG in April 2011, a post she will hold until September.

'At the time of appointment, she was a director of Harness Care Cooperative, something that was recorded in NHS Brent’s register of interests. Dr Kong stepped down at its extraordinary member meeting, which was held in July... and she is now an ordinary member of Harness Care Cooperative.

‘Dr Kong has confirmed that she has recorded any conflicts of interest as a matter of public record in the register held by NHS Brent.

‘All our GPs declare any conflicts of interest as part of good corporate governance.’

Dr Drage revealed that a statutory constitution for CCGs is expected to be published by the DoH in the autumn.

The constitution is expected to be accompanied by guidance which is expected to cover conflicts of interest, Dr Drage said.

Dr Kong was unavailable for comment.

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