GPs: We’ve got nothing to hide

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WIGAN’S top GPs say they have nothing to hide after it was shown many are also involved in private healthcare companies.

An investigation by the British Medical Journal claims more than a third of GPs on boards across the country of the new NHS commissioning groups in England will have a potential conflict of interest because of this. But GPs on the governing body of the Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (WBCCG)today rubbished the report, saying they are completely transparent in their dealings.

The BMJ says 426, or 36 per cent, of the 1,179 GPs it looked at – who are in executive positions on boards – have a financial interest in a for-profit health provider beyond their own practice.

Their interests range from senior directorships in firms set up to provide services such as out-of-hours GP care, to shareholdings in large private health firms, such as Harmoni and Circle Health.

The GP-led CCG will take responsibility, in just under three weeks, for organising NHS care across the borough worth about £600m.

Dr Tim Dalton, Wigan GP and Chair of WBCCG, said: “There are no conflicts of interest for governing body members at Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (WBCCG).

“We publish members’ outside interests on our website, keep potential conflicts of interests under review and take this very seriously. We strictly follow national guidance on assurance and good governance so that if in the future conflicts of interest did arise we would take appropriate action to mitigate any issues.”

The British Medical Journal analysed 83 per cent of the 211 boards, which will play a key role in from April, and says potential conflicts will be “rife”.

A code of conduct says board members must remove themselves from decisions if they could benefit from the outcome.

The NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) says it will issue final guidance soon.

The information – obtained from Freedom of Information requests and analysis of CCGs websites – also shows 12 per cent of the GPs had declared links with not-for-profit organisations that could present a conflict of interest with their commissioning role.

And nine per cent of GPs declared a conflict of interest through a family member.

The BMJ’s editor in chief, Dr Fiona Godlee, said: “These conflicts will make the commissioning of some services difficult.

“Although board members can excuse themselves from meetings when conflicts arise, this could mean some decisions are made by a group of predominantly lay people.”

Political leaders have voiced their concerns at the BMJ’s findings.

The Labour MP for Leigh and shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham MP, said: “Patients and public want those entrusted with making decisions about the NHS to have its best interests at heart.

“They will be shocked to learn that so many have a potential conflict of interest.”