Page last updated at 01:37 GMT, Saturday, 27 February 2010

NHS urged to buy Fairtrade and ethically sourced kit

Medical equipment in operating theatre
The BMA is hoping its campaign will raise awareness among NHS staff

A new campaign has been launched to put pressure on the NHS to examine where its medical instruments come from.

The British Medical Association (BMA) wants more Fairtrade and ethically sourced kit to be used.

It says at least a fifth of surgical instruments are made in northern Pakistan, where child labour is common.

Ministers said "exploitation of any kind was unacceptable" and the Department of Health was working with the BMA to develop practical guidance.

The BMA is hoping NHS staff will support the campaign - Fair Medical Trade - and push for a change in buying habits to ensure fairer pay and better working conditions for producers in developing countries.

'Risking lives'

The campaign says many surgical instruments are made in Pakistan where workers work in dangerous sweatshop conditions.

It says there is also evidence of child labour, with some workers as young as seven.

There is also evidence that children as young as seven are risking their lives to supply us with equipment to save British lives
Dr Mahmood Bhutta

The campaign follows a BMA survey of 383 doctors which suggested while eight in 10 doctors were supportive of the NHS purchasing ethically-sourced goods, only one in 10 was aware of such equipment.

Dr Mahmood Bhutta, a surgeon and adviser on the BMA's Medical Fair and Ethical Trade Group, said more needed to be done to raise awareness.

"Some of the workers in the developing world making medical supplies bound for the NHS are exposed to hazardous working conditions where they risk serious injury and even death," he said.

"There is also evidence that children as young as seven are risking their lives to supply us with equipment to save British lives."

The BMA has launched a new website, , which provides information on the ethical procurement of medical supplies and how doctors can get involved.

The Organic Medical Clothing Company already sells Fairtrade textiles, such as bed linen and cotton gauze, to the NHS.

Spokesman Nik Powell said it helped farmers in developing countries provide freshwater wells, schools and healthcare.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We welcome the BMA's initiative to raise awareness of ethical trade issues across the medical profession.

"We are working hard with procurers to make sure they seek assurance and evidence that international labour standards are being maintained."

Print Sponsor

NHS tools 'made by child labour'
09 Dec 08 |  Oxfordshire
Surgical tool trade ethics fears
27 Jul 06 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific