The chief executive of NHSX, Matthew Gould, yesterday sent an email to staff underlining that the abuse of government contracts by private tech contractors would result in immediate termination, according to an email seen by HSJ. Gould wrote: “If we found a conflict has been exploited for personal or corporate gain, the contractor or company would be asked to leave immediately. I hope this underlines the seriousness with which I take this issue.”
WHY IT MATTERS
As a wave of tech companies are being drafted in to support the NHS in their effort against the COVID-19 pandemic, Gould emphasised the need for increased vigilance around exploitation. In his email he underlined the potential of new contracts bringing “new capabilities, skill and capacity,” but also stressed that the crisis situation did not mean “the suspension of high standard and robust, defensible decision making.”
The email continued to outline the process of accountability and transparency in private contracts: “Firstly all contractors must have completed a conflict of interest form. Secondly, they need to be clear with their NHSX managers whenever they are involved in the selection of a product with which they or their company have an interest or a relationship.”
He goes on to encourage NHS staff to report any incidences of suspected malpractice.
THE LARGER PICTURE
As a result of the pandemic, the NHS is forging many new or extended partnerships with tech companies. For instance, the government recently announced that most major telecommunications companies would be supporting NHS functionality during the pandemic.
Gould applauded this pledge, commenting that: “Technology has the potential to be a tremendous force for good in helping the country and its citizens through the crisis, and we are grateful to industry colleagues for offering their support to the NHS.”
ON THE RECORD
A spokesperson from NHSX stressed that “the email was sent out to reinforce best practice and not in response to an incident.”
However, an exclusive source told Healthcare IT News that there had been rumours of an issue with an affiliated remote consultation platform. According to the source, an individual from the company in question had moved to NHSX and was supplying contacts with intel.
“I don’t think it was malicious, they just weren’t thinking about the consequences,” the source said.
The source emphasised that this was a systemic issue: “There’s no governance from the top down so they can’t adequately enforce these standards. This sort of thing has been going on for a while. It’s because there’s no process in place: no checks around gardening leave or induction practices.”
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