Last week the ABPI released figures suggesting that doctors, nurses and other health professionals in the UK received £40m last year from pharmaceutical companies. The money pays for medical education events, training and development, and fees for services such as speaking engagements and participation in advisory boards.
I know many nurses, particularly those with specialist roles, benefit from the educational events and sponsorship offer by drug and appliance companies. But should professionals, who make objective decisions about purchasing products and drugs, rely on this financial support. Is it naïve to think there is no undue influence?
We all like to assume we would not be open to influence of the drugs industry but we have to question why spends such large amounts of money on us – after all their job is to ultimately to generate sales.
I have attended sponsored educational events and seen the benefits that could be gained from amassing potential customers in one place at the same time. If you have a new product to sell this is the ideal way to market it. Yet it is clear these events also provide valuable information and a chance from nurses to network and share experiences.
Many nurses are struggling to find funding for education and training and there is a growing dependence on industry financial support. Nurses who receive such support need to be clear about their relationship with industry, and this must be open and transparent. This is vital to ensure that we continue to serve the needs of the patient not the company who funds training.
But an additional concern is how we meet the training needs of nurses whose jobs do not fall into the target groups for drug industry investment. Post Francis there is clear evidence that all nurses need time out to reflect on care; to have supervision and regular updating. Who is looking out for all their training and networking needs?