Ethics Committee Protocol
Protocol for compliance and ethical governance arrangements between HSCIC, Dr Foster Holdings LLP and Dr Foster Intelligence Limited
a. This Protocol sets out the process of ethical governance Dr Foster Intelligence Limited (‘DFI’) in which HSCIC and Dr Foster Holdings LLP will each be the registered shareholders of 50 per cent of the shares (the ‘Shareholders’).
b. The purpose of this compliance and ethical governance arrangement is to ensure that DFI, a commercial enterprise, acts at all times in conformity with public service ethical standards as required by the HSCIC. Specifically, DFI is required to be scrupulous in observance of, and conformity with, a Code of Conduct (the ‘Code’; see ‘Code of Conduct’ appended in Deed of Covenant). The Code requires DFI to ensure that all its output – including online and offline publications and products – is accurate, fair and without political or other bias.
2. The Role of the Ethics Committee
a. The Ethics Committee is a body set up to provide a tribunal for complaints about the outputs of Dr Foster Limited in 2000.
b. It is proposed that the Ethics Committee will act as a tribunal for complaints against DFI by any third party.
c. There will be a Deed of Covenant (‘Deed of Covenant’) between the Ethics Committee, which is constituted as a private company limited by guarantee (Dr Foster Ethics Committee Limited), and DFI.
d. The Ethics Committee is chaired by Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen.
e. Every two years, the chief executives of Dr Foster Holdings LLP and HSCIC and the chair of the Ethics Committee will meet to review the membership of the Ethics Committee.
f. Members are unpaid and are prohibited from any direct commercial relationship with DFI or Dr Foster Holdings LLP or HSCIC or Dr Foster Research Limited. Where any conflict exists, this must be declared to the chairman who will decide whether that conflict requires a member to resign from the Ethics Committee or can be managed through declaration of the interest and withdrawal from any relevant committee discussion.
g. The Ethics Committee will meet monthly to consider any complaints. All will receive minutes of these meetings within 14 days thereof. These minutes can be circulated to shareholders but any broader circulation will require permission of the Committee chair.
h. The Ethics Committee has the absolute right in its sole discretion to conduct formal investigations, whether at the behest of a third party or at its own initiation. In the case of an investigation, the Ethics Committee will appoint a panel from among its own members, including a chairman. It may also choose to appoint expert technical and legal advisers.
i. The costs of Ethics Committee meetings, administration and any investigations, including the cost of technical and legal advisers, and publication and distribution of consequent opinions will be met by DFI.
j. Ethics Committee rulings will be accepted as final by DFI.
Code of Conduct
DFI will work to improve public health and understanding of the issues surrounding the provision of healthcare in the UK;
DFI will not Publish Material, sell or promote products or engage in commercial activities that run counter to any of the Objectives or the terms of this Code of Conduct;
DFI will take steps to ensure wide access to the Material it creates;
DFI will remain independent from all party political interest groups.
a. DFI will take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material including pictures.
b. DFI will not publish or produce material that is unfair or statistically unsound.
c. DFI will take steps to ensure that the statistics are properly sourced and methodologies openly and fully described.
d. Whenever it is recognised that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report has been published, DFI will take steps to promptly correct it.
a. DFI retains the right to publish information that is in the public domain and which identifies individuals who provide healthcare services.
b. Where DFI publishes private information about an individual it will only do so where it has the consent of the individual.
5. Legality and compliance with regulation
a. DFI will comply with the law and with relevant regulations including the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct in respect to its dealing with newspapers.
a. DFI has no political affiliations.
b. DFI will not accept investment from organisations with a direct interest in pharmaceuticals, medical devices or [the provision of healthcare].
c. DFI may produce publications that include advertising or sponsorship from companies with an interest in healthcare. Where this happens DFI the sponsors or advertisers will have no editorial control, except in the circumstances described in clause 7.1.
d. In some circumstances, DFI may chose to share editorial control with a sponsoring organisation, such as a medical charity or patient support group, where the sponsoring organisation has significant authority and expertise in the subject of the publication. In these circumstances, any sharing of editorial control will be made explicit in the publication.
e. DFI may also seek sponsorship for individual research projects. Where it does so, it will refer such research projects to the compliance committee for approval that the research is in the interests of patients.
7. Ethical research
a. DFI will conduct research in an ethical fashion. In collecting information DFI researchers will identify to any subject of research the scope and aim of the research project subject to the exclusions in clause 7.4.
b. DFI may from time to time conduct research through mystery shopping exercises in which researchers will pose as members of the public in order to test the quality of service provision. Mystery shopping exercises will only be conducted when there is a clear public interest in collecting the information and there is no suitable alternative method of research available.
c. Research that reveals failings in the provision of healthcare services to the public will be regarded as being in the public interest.
d. Where DFI conducts mystery shopping research, it will first submit the research proposal to the compliance committee for approval.
e. In all research conducted by DFI or on behalf of DFI, patient confidential information will be handled securely.
8. Complaints handling
a. DFI will respond promptly to complaints, acknowledging any complaint and providing a response within 20 days of the complaint being received.
b. Complainants will be advised of their rights to pursue their complaint through the ethics committee if they are not satisfied with the response from DFI.
c. DFI will refer complaints to the ethics committee where it believes the complaint is sufficiently serious.
9. Adjudication of complaints
a. On receipt of a complaint the ethics committee will require DFI to produce a defence of its actions within a reasonable time frame. The ethics committee may then seek further information from both complainant and DFI to support their positions. It will then judge on the balance of probabilities whether the code of conduct has been infringed.
b. Complaining to the DFI ethics committee does not in any way alter any party’s statutory rights.
c. The adjudication of any complaint will be made public on the DFI website.
d. Complainants will only be identified in the published adjudication if they wish to be identified.