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6 Key Regulations to Consider When Organising a Healthcare Conference

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Hosting a healthcare conference is no easy task. Indeed there are regulations aplenty to adhere to if your organisation is to remain on the right side of governing bodies. Remembering that such events are arranged for the furtherment of the healthcare sector itself - and not the enjoyment of its participants -  will hold you and your colleagues in good stead.

So what stipulates the right and wrongs of a healthcare conference? The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry quite simply, or ABPI for short.

Clause 19 of their lengthy code of practice outlines guidelines pertaining to meetings, hospitality and sponsorship. And they are endless.

At a headline level hospitality can be provided to members of health professions and appropriate administrative staff if in conjunction with the following occasions: scientific meetings, promotional meetings, scientific congresses and training. Simple enough, yes?

The minutiae however is far more involved. The ruling states that hospitality must be restricted to the main purpose of the event only. Any additional offerings must be classed as second to the event itself. In other words, nobody should flock to your conference on the premise of a good lunch.

1. Subsistence

Understanding subsistence and what it entails is significant when planning a healthcare conference. Defined as an ‘action or fact of maintaining or supporting oneself’ it basically affords event organisers license to accommodate guests at a basic, minimum level. Rather than throw lavish banquets or award-winning entertainment, they are advised to provide what an attendee would deem a reasonable expense for themselves. A budget of little more than £20 per head is commonplace when it comes to food and drink.

Unsurprisingly refreshments cannot be extended to spouse or family members. The kitty exists purely for healthcare professionals and administrative staff. It may sound harsh but remember the NHS is currently seeking to plug a black hole billions deep. Freebies would seem ill-judged in that climate.

2. Hospitality

You may be forgiven for asking what constitutes hospitality when it comes to a healthcare conference? Thankfully the ABPI are quite precise in this, leaving little to no room for error.

Organisers can freely offer up:

  • Refreshments (meals and drinks)
  • Accommodation
  • Genuine registration fees
  • Reasonable travel costs (for delegate ONLY)

Refrain from offering incentives for mere attendance. This is not permitted. Neither are travel expenses for those favouring economy class, unless of course they are sponsored to join you.

3. Location

And what of the venue itself? Well this must be conducive to the event in question. Extravagant locations are frowned upon, as are those renowned for hosting entertainment. See more on this here.

Such filters complicate the task of organisers seeking an appropriate place in which to stage their medical conference. If you know of a hotelier prepared to cordon off key areas of their business – yes, the likes of golf courses and in-house spas must be hidden – you have yourself an unusually amenable friend. However, it may not always be possible, or may prove difficult for a hotel to close leisure facilities or certain areas of the building for one conference. This is something that Lane End Conferences can accommodate however.

Consider also that no payment can be given to doctors or other prescribers for the rental of rooms intended for use in this scenario. This is not permissible, even if booking fees are earmarked for new equipment of charitable donations.

4. Sponsorship 

Staging a meeting sponsored by pharmaceutical companies is no crime. Clear sign-posting of it though is important. All papers and materials distributed in session must contain messaging that informs visitors of the organisation behind it all. Indeed, they can be left in no doubt.

Similarly, pharmaceutical companies must publicly declare any financial details concerning sponsorship of UK health professionals and associated staff were they to frequent a conference. This must materialise in the calendar year following that in which payments were made. The information must be public within three months of that company’s financial year drawing to a close. Monetary contributions could range from registration fees right through to travel expenses. Either way, transparency is essential.

As for the type of event those aforementioned pharmaceutical companies can prop-up they are as follows:

  • Lunchtime audio-visual presentations in a group practice
  • Hospital meetings and meetings at postgraduate education centres
  • Advisory board meetings
  • Visits to research and manufacturing facilities
  • Planning, training and investigator meetings for clinical trials and non-interventional studies
  • Launch meetings for new products
  • Management training courses
  • Patient support group meetings
  • Satellite symposia
  • International meetings organised by independent bodies with sponsorship from pharmaceutical companies

5. Content

In the name of originality, the ABPI allow for varied subject matter however all conferences must have what they term ‘clear educational content.’ The latter guards against any form of social gathering unfolding under the false pretence of a medical banner. No football, no alcohol – just healthcare.

When it comes to entry itself no husbands or wives of the medical professional are welcome while administrative staff are only granted access if the course material is specific to them. This is seldom.

6. Overseas Conferences

With so many laws in place for healthcare conferences here in the UK you would be forgiven for assuming our doctors and nurses are forbidden from attending equivalent seminars overseas. You would be wrong.

In actuality, were they to justify their attendance they are free to travel. Justification comes when the content is specific to their particular field and the majority of attendees emanate from one country, hence its staging there as opposed to Britain.

Rules are generally relaxed abroad. Unless specifically prohibited by law speakers can refer to medicines not even registered in certain corners of the globe, providing a statement exists clarifying where the drug is and is not approved.

In instances where a UK health professional attends a meeting outside of this country their employers should forewarn hosts of the ABPI legislation, which should be enforced if their employee is required to attend.

Whilst on their travels the ordinary code of conduct applies – including that of The General Medical Council, The General Pharmaceutical Council and The Code of the Nursing & Midwifery Council respectively. All outlaw the acceptance of inappropriate inducements, gifts or – you guessed it – hospitality.

By way of an overview that just about covers the do’s and don’ts when planning a healthcare conference. For peace of mind however it is well worth reading Clause 19 of the ABPI code here.

Remember too that Lane End have experience of hosting such events and meeting all criteria. Contact us today to discuss requirments.

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