Intended for healthcare professionals


Opening the door on vested interests

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 10 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:328
  1. Rebecca Coombes
  1. London

The Freedom of Information Act may herald a new age of openness in public life, but are medical organisations slow in keeping up with changing attitudes?

Royal colleges and medical associations—which are currently exempt from the Freedom of Information Act—should not be complacent but should instead openly publish details about the activities of influential members, campaigners have said.

Currently, only the General Medical Council is covered by the act, which came into force on 1 January. For several years the council has been publishing its register of members' interests on its website ( Details include whether a member is a freemason or the member of a political party.

The Association of British Neurologists has recently put details of senior members' financial interests on its website, but its openness remains unusual.

The Freedom of Information Act, which applies to about 100 000 public authorities, including the NHS, gives the public new rights to the information previously held back as “for internal use only.” It does not, however, apply to professional bodies—yet.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, warned that professional organisations could end up on a future list of public groups covered by the act. “They could end up …

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