By Tony Collins
An IT supplier to the Department of Health and the NHS has offered “tea at The Ritz” or two tickets to a West End show to GP leaders in return for helping to organise an event that would give the company a chance to demonstrate its systems.
TPP SystmOne, which says in its marketing literature that its systems hold a third of the country’s patient records and have more than 90,000 users, has ceased to offer the incentives, the Department of Health told Campaign4Change.
“We were made aware and asked the supplier about this activity,” said a Department of Health spokesperson. “The supplier has subsequently confirmed that they have ceased offering incentives to GPs.”
TPP also offered GP leaders a £25 Marks and Spencer voucher; and wished Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to some potential customers with an offer of a box of Hotel Chocolat chocolates.
“To find out why 1800 GP practices have already moved to SystmOne, just call me on the number below to book your short GP demo. Book before 24th December to get a box of Hotel Chocolat chocolates on the day of your demonstration …”
In its separate offer of tea at The Ritz, a TPP SystmOne manager told the senior partner of a London health centre last year that the company’s system was available free of charge through the government-funded GP Systems of Choice initiative.
“Following recent success in the London area, TP are looking to sponsor local practice manager meetings. We’ll provide lunch and refreshments for all your attendees. As a thank-you the organiser of the event will receive afternoon tea at The Ritz or two tickets to a West End show of their choice! All we ask in return is a short slot at your meeting so we can demonstrate the benefits of SystmOne.”
Parts of the NHS have clearly-defined rules on the acceptance of gifts or hospitality. NHS Sheffield tells its staff:
“All offers of hospitality should be approached with caution. Modest hospitality, for example, a drink and sandwich during a visit or a working lunch is normal and reasonable and does not require approval of a manager. Offers of hospitality relating to theatre evenings, sporting fixtures, or holiday accommodation, or other hospitality must be declined…”
The guidance adds:
“Casual gifts by contractors or others, e.g. at Christmas time, must not be in any way connected with the performance of duties …”
TPP’s offer was not against the law. If all GP system suppliers offered the same or similar incentives, though, GP leaders could be inundated. Under the government’s health service reforms GPs who form part of Clinical Commissioning Groups will take on responsibility from primary care trusts for paying for GP systems.
We asked CSC, which supplies TPP SystmOne under the National Programme for IT, whether it was aware of the incentives and whether it, or TPP, wished to comment.
“Because we are in active negotiations with the government, we are not able to comment in depth on the programme until those negotiations have concluded,” said a CSC spokeswoman who said that the same applied to TPP as “they are a supplier to us working on the National Programme”.