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Campaign for ethical trading in the NHS gathers pace

Thursday 1 November 2012

A new training programme supporting NHS staff to ethically procure goods and services was launched today, 1 November.

The free training programme was funded by the Department of Health, and developed in partnership with the BMA and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).

The training is designed to support the Ethical Procurement for Health workbook launched in 2011. Together, they provide practical advice for healthcare buyers, helping them to identify poor labour standards and take action through the procurement process and engagement with suppliers.

Materials include a short awareness raising online film.1, a tutor-led training course and three e-learning modules2.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s Director of Professional Activities, said:

“Some medical products used in the NHS are produced in unhealthy, unsafe and unfair working conditions. Workers in the developing world are often exposed to hazardous conditions where they risk serious injury and even death to make goods bound for the NHS. There is also evidence of child labour and bonded labour which is essentially a form of slavery. “If you are a member of the public I urge you to watch our film which exposes the working conditions in which some products bound for the NHS are produced. If you work in the NHS encourage your employers to get their procurement staff trained up. It is not enough to feel sad about the plight of workers who are being exploited, we need to change the way we purchase.”

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said:

“Poor labour standards within supply chains of products and services provided to the NHS are inexcusable. These materials will help NHS buyers with ethical procurement, and help to protect the health and wellbeing of workers in the supply chain.”

Peter McAllister, ETI Director, said: “The NHS has enormous purchasing power, and a real opportunity to drive positive changes within its supply chains. The health service tends to have long-term contracts, with a relatively stable base of suppliers. From ETI’s experience, we know that recognising workers’ rights translates into cost efficiencies, improved product quality, and better transparency in the supply chain.”


Notes to editors

1 The Human Cost of Healthcare, a short film that explores the working condition in which NHS supplies are produced, is freely available on-line through the fair medical trade website and YouTube:  

2 The training materials will be available here:  

For more information contact:

The BMA press office

Gordon Fletcher
Direct telephone: 020 7383 6549

For out-of-hours press enquiries telephone : 020 7383 6254

E-mail :

ETI press office

Esme Gibbins, ETI Media Relations and Communications Manager

Direct line: +44(0)20 7841 4358

About ETI:

  • ETI is a ground-breaking alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs who work in partnership to improve the working lives of poor and vulnerable people in global supply chains.
  • ETI has more than 70 company members, who have a combined annual turnover of £179 billion. More than 10 million workers worldwide are reached through ETI members’ ethical trade activities.
  • For more information, please visit:

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