A CONSULTATION about whether doctors should be forced to declare payments they have received from drug companies is biased, according to the medic whose action led to the move.

Dr Peter Gordon, a former consultant psychiatrist at NHS Forth Valley, has petitioned the Scottish Parliament to introduce a Sunshine Act, which would demand healthcare workers be open about their financial interests related to the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies.

However, he says the Scottish Government's consultation has presented "unbalanced" information which will not give the public the full picture about the status quo.

NHS staff receive around £38.5 million from the pharmaceutical industry annually, and Dr Gordon estimates up to £4m of this may go to workers in Scotland, with no way to judge whether it has an impact on activities such as prescribing decisions.

Dr Gordon said: “Only a tiny proportion of the £4m known to be paid to healthcare workers by the pharmaceutical industry has been recorded in NHS Scotland registers.

“As petitioner my overwhelming concern is that by presenting unbalanced information the Scottish Government has arranged consultations which will lack in validity.”

After a series of hearings, Holyrood’s petitions committee agreed to commission a public consultation about whether changes were needed to improve transparency for patients and the public.

But Dr Gordon says the consultation, being carried out by the Scottish Health Council (SHC), is not giving people the full facts and could render the process invalid or even look like manipulation.

A briefing being used for the meetings implies that existing rules on transparency may be sufficient and are currently working.

Dr Gordon says that is not the case, and key details have been excluded. “The petition would not have been raised, nor indeed considered by the committee, had it not been for… evidence which has not been provided to the discussion groups,” he said.

He said no NHS Scotland board has fully complied with official government guidance issued in 2003 requiring chief executives to set up registers of interests for all employees including GPs.

Continuing medical education is in some boards entirely supported by sponsors such as the pharmaceutical industry, Dr Gordon said, and patients have no way of knowing if a doctor prescribing drugs has been paid by a drug company or been trained by people who have received such payments.

Dr Gordon added: “If healthcare workers are ‘educated’ by those whose first loyalty is to shareholders, then scientific impartiality may suffer."

The briefing was prepared for the SHC by the Scottish Government. It says figures from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry show healthcare professionals receive payments for a range of activities including training, clinical trials, media work and market research. An ABPI register of payments is expected to be implemented this year.

A spokesman for the Scottish Health Council said: “One of the key functions of the Scottish Health Council is to ensure that members of the public have the opportunity to give their views on key healthcare issues.

“Following a request from Scottish Government, the Scottish Health Council organised and facilitated a series of discussion groups to gather views from the public on whether there should be a register of interests for NHSScotland.

"Twelve discussion groups have been held around Scotland so far and more are planned to provide further opportunities for people to comment on this issue. People taking part in the discussion groups have been drawn from a range of sources including local community contacts, Public Partnership Forums and voluntary organisations.

"Once the programme of discussion groups is complete, the Scottish Health Council will publish a report on the views gathered.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said Dr Gordon had been given the chance to comment on the consultation before it began and added: “We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the Scottish Health Council work.

"The Scottish Government commissioned this work to gather views on what a robust, transparent and proportionate response to this issue should look like.

"It is important that this is done in the context of existing legislation, the role of professional and regulatory bodies and the significant progress towards voluntary registers by the pharmaceutical industry.”