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Rethink over plans to make NHS doctors declare private earnings

NHS doctors in England will not be forced to declare their private earnings, in a U-turn on plans announced last year.

NHS England chairman Sir Malcolm Grant, who has led a review on the issue, said last year hospitals could be told to publish a register of consultants' earnings from private work.

Disclosure would involve saying whether a doctor is earning less than £50,000, between £50,000 but under £100,000, and over £100,000 from private sources.

NHS England confirmed it was consulting on asking hospitals to publish a register of consultants' outside earnings from this April.

But that plan has now been dropped, with doctors now only asked to tell their employers "where, when and what" they have done privately.

NHS England said earnings would not be declared "at this stage" and it was expected that NHS work would take precedence over private work.

The detail is included in NHS England's new conflicts of interest guidance, published on Thursday, which it says will " ensure that the NHS is a world leader for transparent and accountable healthcare".

The guidance permits staff, such as nurses, to receive a box of chocolates or other small tokens of gratitude from patients but will require them to decline anything that could be seen to affect their professional judgment.

Gifts with a value over £50, accepted on behalf of organisations, will need to be declared, while cash gifts should be refused.

Ian Dodge, national director for commissioning strategy at NHS England told its board meeting feedback from the consultation on declaring private earnings had not supported the move.

He said: "We've heard some support for the underlying principle but had a very clear message that the specific way we were proposing to capture that principle was not the best route to proceed.

"So what we are doing in this guidance is setting out something that is comparable to the way that other non-clinical staff have to declare their time commitment to outside interests."

Sir Malcolm said of the new guidance: "The public rightly expects NHS staff to behave appropriately and use the healthcare budget to achieve the best outcomes for patients.

"While behaviour is exemplary in virtually all instances, there are times when more could have been done to prevent standards slipping.

"We have invited comment from the public, patients, NHS staff and other stakeholders on our proposals and have acted on what they have told us.

"This new guidance will bring a consistent approach to conflicts of interest and ensure the public can have faith in the integrity of the NHS."

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: "We welcome these guidelines and recognise the need to bring greater coherence and consistency to how the health service handles conflicts and potential conflicts of interest."

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