Do the supply-chain provisions of the Modern Slavery Act apply to NHS bodies and, if so, what do they need to do?

While NHS bodies may be confident that their own organisation does not engage in slavery or human trafficking, the Act places additional requirements on certain types of organisation that may apply to most NHS bodies.  Under the Act, commercial organisations in any sector that have a total annual turnover of £36 million or more also need to make an annual statement, which will include not only their own policies but also details of the due diligence they have undertaken on their supply chain. 

Reading this description, NHS bodies might think it did not apply to them, but guidance indicates that the form of the organisation is irrelevant (as is the use to which the organisation’s profits are put) and the definition of “commercial organisation” is very wide.  A commercial organisation is “a body corporate (wherever incorporated) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom”.  In our view, the current market-based structure of the health service in England, with both state and independent sector providers competing to provide services under contracts, suggests that NHS providers should be regarded as businesses.  This is consistent with the approach taken by the competition regulators to both Foundation Trusts and NHS Trusts, which are both viewed as “enterprises”.  There are other obvious examples of NHS bodies that conduct business activities and which it appears will also be subject to the Act.  In addition, our analysis is that the £36 million threshold applies to the total turnover of the organisation, not just its income from carrying on business in the UK.

Our review of the Act and related guidance suggests that the Act is likely to apply to:

  • NHS Foundation Trusts
  • NHS Trusts
  • NHS England, because it hosts the CSUs
  • CCGs if they carry on any business activities

For further information on the Act and what you need to do to comply with your obligations under it, please read our article.

 

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