Earlier this month, as part of new amendments to the Health and Care Bill, the House of Lords proposed new clauses that urged the government to take more robust measures to make sure its NHS supply chains were free from exploitation.
The proposed clauses state that:
The Secretary of State must carry out a review into the risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place in relation to people involved in NHS supply chains.
The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision for the purposes of ensuring that procurement of all goods and services for the purposes of the health service in England avoids modern slavery.
The move comes in response to concerns around the sourcing of supplies from countries where there are high levels of exploitation and human rights abuses, such as the Xinjiang region of China, where thousands of Uyghur Muslims are believed to be held in camps and forced to work.
A UK government spokesperson said in a press statement: “The amendment will help ensure the NHS, which is the biggest public procurer in the country, is not buying or using goods or services produced by or involving any kind of slave labour. This represents a significant step forward in the UK’s mission to crack down on the evils of modern slavery wherever it is found.
“The power will allow tough regulations to be made which can set out steps that the NHS should be taking to assess the level of risk associated with individual suppliers, and the basis on which they should exclude them from a tendering process.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid added: “I want this to be a turning point in the UK’s mission to eradicate slavery and human trafficking in supply chains around the globe. As the biggest public procurer in the country, the NHS is well placed to spearhead this work.”
City Hearts CEO Ed Newton has welcomed any action that works to remove modern slavery and exploitation from the UK’s supply chains.
He said: “Modern slavery is a crime that often goes unnoticed due to its clandestine nature, but the complexity and scale of supply chains makes detection of exploitation even harder to detect. We therefore hope that by implementing a more robust procedure to procure products and services free from slavery, the UK sends a message to the world that exploitation won’t be tolerated.”