The British Medical Association (BMA) has launched a campaign to promote fair trade in medical supplies today (23 February 2009).
The BMA campaign, which comes ahead of Fair Trade Fortnight (23 February to 8 March), calls on healthcare workers and the public to contribute to the NHS consultation on ethical purchasing.
“There is evidence to suggest that many supplies used in the NHS are produced in unhealthy, unsafe and unfair working conditions,” said Dr Mahmood Bhutta, BMA adviser on the BMA's Medical Fair and Ethical Trade Group.
“Workers in the developing world are poorly paid and are exposed to hazardous conditions, where they risk serious injury and even death<” said Dr Bhutta.
“For example, many surgical instruments are made in Pakistan where workers work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Some suffer serious injuries due to poor standards of health and safety. There is also a use of child labour, with some workers as young as seven.
“It seems perverse that labourers around the world are risking their lives to supply us with equipment to save British lives.”
He added: “Fair trade is not just about the products we purchase, it is also about things that are purchased on our behalf. Taxpayers have an opportunity to tell the NHS they want medical equipment purchased in line with fair and ethical trade guidelines.
“The NHS body responsible for advising GPs and hospitals on the purchasing of medical equipment has recently produced a consultation document on this issue. I would urge anyone who cares to submit a response to that consultation.”