Nursing directors have been warned by the chair of a national clinical board that nurses should not accept payment from a market research firm, because it may be in breach of their code of conduct, a letter seen by Nursing Times has revealed.
Mandie Sunderland, who is chair of the NHS Clinical Reference Board and also chief nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said staff had been “targeted” by research organisation Adept Field Solutions to take part in hour-long interviews about the wound care market.
“It is the opinion of the Clinical Reference Board that £180 exceeds a definition of a ‘trivial gift’ ”
Nurses had also been asked for their views on the NHS’s Clinical Evaluation Team, which reviews healthcare products including those for wound care, she said in a letter sent to all NHS trust chief nurses last month.
In the letter, seen by Nursing Times, Ms Sunderland said she was “particularly concerned” because the invitation to take part in interviews had included a “significant financial incentive” of around £180.
She claimed it would be in breach of the profession’s code of conduct, which “prohibits the acceptance of all but the most trivial gifts, favours or hospitality”.
However, the nursing regulator itself, which oversees the code, has suggested to Nursing Times that it would be down to nurses to use their own professional judgement to ensure they practised in line with it.
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“It is the opinion of the Clinical Reference Board that £180 exceeds a definition of a ‘trivial gift’,” said Ms Sunderland in the letter, while also noting that it would also potentially be in breach of trust policies on gifts.
She also highlighted in her letter that specific feedback had been requested by the research firm about the NHS’s Clinical Evaluation Team, an “independent national team, funded by the Department of Health”.
“Their work is based on the views of clinical colleagues across the NHS in England, and has already identified information which is greatly valued by clinicians as it offers a view of the clinical quality of many of the products we all use on a daily basis,” she wrote. “They are also NHS employed clinical experts seconded from our trusts.”
In addition, Ms Sunderland noted that clinical nurse specialists were most likely to be targeted by research firms.
She asked trust chief nurses to notify of her any other non-NHS organisations offering financial incentives to staff or requesting views on the work of the Clinical Evaluation Team.
“It is for nurses and midwives to use their professional judgement to ensure that they practise in line with the code”
Nursing and Midwifery Council
The Nursing and Midwifery Council was unable to confirm to Nursing Times whether or not the payment was in breach of its code, but noted that it was down to registrants to use their professional judgement.
“Our code provides guidance for nurses and midwives in relation to financial dealings they may have with anyone they have a professional relationship with,” said a spokesman for the regulator.
”It is for nurses and midwives to use their professional judgement to ensure that they practise in line with the code,” he said.
Adept Field Solutions told Nursing Times it was a “fully compliant member” of market research governing bodies in the UK and Europe and that it adhered to strict guidelines on the provision of payments.
The organisation said it had included views from a range of stakeholders in its work, including those from the national teams. However, it apologised for its approach and said it would not repeat its actions in the future.
“We do adhere to strict guidelines on the conducting and approach of market research, including the provision of honoraria to reflect the time taken by individuals to take part at different levels,” said project director Jason Seymour.
“Market research incentive payments made to individuals are given for their time and expert opinions”
“Market research incentive payments made to individuals are given for their time and expert opinions,” he said. “As a market research company our activities are never promotional and in no way was our offer of compensation an inducement or associated with any product.
“The inclusion of the viewpoints from the clinical reference board was one of many different stakeholders for this particular study. We are very sorry our approaches in this study were felt to be beyond what is considered appropriate and have taken actions not to repeat this in the future,” he added.