Doctors, health professionals and academics are calling on the GMC to set up a central registry of doctors’ competing interests.
Signed by 15 doctors and academics, the letter in the BMJ points out that citizens can access MPs’ central register of their financial conflicts of interest, yet patients cannot find out whether their doctor has a financial conflict of interest.
It says the current system of self declaration “is variable, opaque, and unreliable” and that “there is a need for change”.
The authors urge the GMC to consult on this, saying “this transparency can only be good for medical practice. It may cause discomfort for a few but would enhance trust in the profession as a whole.”
They invite doctors to register their declarations of interests publicly here and conclude: “We anticipate that, in time, a public declaration of interests will be seen as the right thing for all professionals to make.”
Financial incentives for doctors are currently receiving greater scrutiny.
In private healthcare, the Competition Commission recently criticised the practice of private hospitals paying clinicians bonuses for patient referrals – which encourages doctors to refer patients to their facilities for particular treatments and tests.
Also, at the end of last year, GlaxoSmithKline said it would stop paying doctors to promote its products through speaking engagements. The pharmaceuticals firm is making major changes to its incentive schemes following a damaging corruption scandal in China.
The Royal College of Physicians is supportive of more transparency around doctors’ interests.
President Sir Richard Thompson said recently: “The public needs to be confident that when healthcare professionals are speaking about medicines, they are not influenced by financial or other support from the company that produces those medicines.”