January 2020 Special Edition of ESR News

Conflict of Interest Recording planned for ESR

Background

Every year the taxpayer entrusts NHS organisations with over £110 billion to care for millions of people. This money must be spent well and free from undue influence.  

In 2017, NHS England published national guidance Managing conflicts of interest in the NHS. The guidance applies to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts (Provider Trusts), and NHS England.

All staff must declare interests, including gifts and hospitality, to their employing organisation.  In addition, decision making staff, which as a minimum includes board members, medical consultants, and AfC staff at bands 8d or above, must be prompted by their employing organisation to update their declaration of interests or make a nil return at least annually.  Organisations should then publish the interests of decision making staff at least annually in a prominent place on their website.

NHS England and NHS Improvement recently established a Task and Finish Group (T&FG) to support provider trusts to fully comply with the national guidance. The group identified a significant administrative burden in collecting, collating, and publishing declarations of interest particularly among provider trusts, who can have between several hundred and several thousand decision making staff.  Company secretaries, who often lead on implementing the national guidance within trusts, fed back that a barrier to implementation was a lack of IT solutions with some trusts relying on spreadsheets to keep track of declarations of interest.

These divisional spreadsheets then have to be amalgamated into a report in respect of decision-making staff for publication. This process has to be repeated at least annually so that the public reports are no more than 12 months old, in line with the national guidance. A considerable amount of company secretaries’ and their teams’ time is required.

Planned for ESR Release 45 at the end of March, the new ESR Declarations of Interest functionality within Self Service can help remove this administrative burden and therefore support Organisations to fully comply with the national guidance.  For more details speak to you regional Functional Account Manager.

How it will work

A new suite of forms are being designed to support the Declaration of Interest process within Employee Self Service.  These will enable employees to declare potential conflict of interest, gifts, hospitality etc.  They will also allow managers to note any action taken to mitigate any potential conflicts.  ESR will use existing value sets to help define decision makers, for example all 8d and 9 Grade staff or utilise Staff Group and Job Role values (e.g. Medical and Dental – Consultant; or Administrative and Clerical - Board Level Director) to simplify the tasks of identifying groups required to complete the process.  In addition a Supplementary Role will be added within ESR to allow identification of “Decision Makers” who may need recording outside of the above national value sets.

Helping administer the process

Alongside making access to complete the process part of ESR and readily accessible to your workforce via employee self-service, additional functionality will be included to help make administering the process easier.  Automated ESR Notifications – which can also be received as emails – will be developed to alert when new conflicts of interest are recorded.  This would be sent to a role holder which could include Trust Secretary of HR/Workforce team members as appropriate.  These will be sent on a monthly basis and contain detail of all updates made since the last notification was sent.

To help ensure Organisations are able to remind employees of the need to undertake this process a new national notification will be created.  This will be sent to all those with the decision-making role allocated, all 8d and above employees all those with a Job role containing Consultant and all Exec and non-exec Director roles.  A key difference with this notification is that we will enable Organisations to determine the most appropriate time to send the notification to their employees.  A new process we will deliver can be scheduled to send the notification on a date of the Organisation’s choosing to link to annual and reminder periods set locally.  Organisations will be able to utilise existing ESR capability, such as Portal announcements, to advise employees on action required at any time should they wish. 

Reporting support

New nationally created reports will be available to all Organisations.  These can be tailored by Organisations to suit their own needs. The reports can then be output to suitable formats to enable Organisations to publish details of Conflict of Interest for their staff, this may be to simply embed a file on the Organisation website or supply detail to local IT teams to integrate into local websites more comprehensively.   

In addition, to help support national organisations charged with ownership of the policy the ESR Strategic data warehouse will be updated with anonymised data to enable trending analysis across the ESR footprint.  This will give a better understanding of uptake and how conflict of interest is being managed, where ESR is used to capture this.

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