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NHS should lead in ensuring goods it buys are produced ethically

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d3107 (Published 17 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3107
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

Ethical considerations should be part and parcel of purchasing decisions for the NHS, says guidance published this week. The document aims to raise awareness of labour standards in medical supply chains, such as the use of child labour in the manufacture of surgical instruments used in the United Kingdom.

Ethical Procurement for Health is a practical online toolkit produced by the Ethical Trading Initiative (an alliance of companies, trade unions, and voluntary organisations), the BMA, and the Department of Health for England. It has been designed to help NHS organisations improve the working conditions in which goods for the NHS are produced.

The UK health services spend more than £30bn (€34bn; $49bn) a year on procuring goods and services. Evidence is growing that in some cases the basic employment rights of people in these supply chains are being infringed.

For example, a quarter of all surgical instruments in the world are produced in one area …

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