Bribery in the NHS

The Bribery Act reforms the criminal law to provide a new, modern and comprehensive scheme of bribery offences that will enables courts and prosecutors to respond more effectively to bribery committed within the UK or abroad.  The Bribery Act applies to all individuals living in and corporates (irrespective as to what happens to any profit) based or operating in the UK.

What is a bribe?

Bribery is generally defined as giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so.   It is, therefore, offering an incentive to someone to do something which they wouldn’t normally do.  For example, someone offering a job might be offered tickets to an event by one of the candidates or someone linked to them.

Bribery Act 2010

In the context of the Bribery Act 2010, the offence of bribery refers to accepting, as well as offering, a bribe.

The three offences most relevant to the NHS are:

Section 1 - Offering, promising or giving a bribe to another person to perform a relevant ‘function or activity’ improperly, or to reward a person for the improper performance of such a function or activity.

Section 2 - Requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe to perform a function or activity improperly.

Section 7 - Failure of a commercial organisation to prevent bribery (the corporate offence).

Who can be prosecuted under the Bribery Act 2010?

-       Any individual associated with an organisation may be liable for a primary bribery offence;

-       A senior management or board member who consented to or connived in a section 1 bribery offence will, together with the organisation, be liable for the section 7 ‘corporate offence’.

What penalties can be imposed?

An offence under section 1 (bribing another person) or section 2 (being bribed):

-       Magistrates’ Court:  imprisonment (for a term not exceeding 12 months), a fine (not exceeding the statutory maximum), or both;

-       Crown Court: imprisonment (for a term not exceeding 10 years), a fine, or both.

An offence under section 7 (failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery):

-       An organisation guilty of an offence under this section is liable to an unlimited fine.

A ‘twin-track’ approach can be used to take action against an individual under section 1 and an organisation under section 7 simultaneously.

Who is responsibility is it to prevent bribery?

Every Trust employee is personally responsible for protecting the Trust from bribery or corruption.

The Trust explicitly prohibits:

-       the offering, giving, solicitation or acceptance of any bribe

-       whether cash or other inducement

-       to or from any person or company wherever they are situated

-       in order to gain any commercial, contractual or regulatory advantage for the Trust in a way which is unethical

-       or in order to gain any personal advantage, pecuniary or otherwise, for the individual or anyone connected with the individual

In order to avoid liability, an organisation will have to show that it has implemented ‘adequate procedures’ designed to prevent individuals associated with that organisation from engaging in bribery.

Is it possible someone might be trying to bribe you?  What questions do you need to ask yourself?

-       Have you been offered any gifts or hospitality?

-       Is this gift / hospitality reasonable and proportionate?

-       What would you regard as reasonable and proportionate?

-       Do you believe the gift or hospitality may be an attempt to influence you, because of your position?

If you are not happy with any of your answers, report your concerns to your manager, via the Whistleblowing Policy or to your Local Counter Fraud Specialist on 01452 318 826 / 01452 318 842 or email