FCC highlights concern over lack of women in health enterprises

Report calls for openness over clinicians’ links to private companies

9th March 2021 about a 3 minute read
“We’re very concerned to see such an underrepresentation of women in health enterprise. Wasting talent in this way is going to hold back health innovation in this country.” Josefine Magnusson, FCC Senior Research Officer

Future Care Capital (FCC) has highlighted concern over the lack of women among entrepreneurs in healthcare.

The organisation is also calling for greater transparency over clinicians and academics and their links with profit-making companies.

An FCC report published this week calls for more openness over the financial interests of clinicians. It suggests that this information should be included in the General Medical Council (GMC) register.

Last year the review led by Baroness Cumberlege, which led to the report First Do No Harm said patients should have a right to know when their care providers had a financial interest in the products or treatments they recommend.

But the new FCC research suggests it is very difficult for patients to find out this information.

Patient trust

Josefine Magnusson, FCC Senior Research Officer, warned that unless the issue is addressed patient trust could be damaged.

“Our research highlights just how complex the health enterprise landscape is, and the gaps in publicly available data.

“This lack of information makes it difficult for individuals to understand how clinicians are involved with companies, or even what those companies actually do.

“We’re also very concerned to see such an underrepresentation of women in health enterprise. Wasting talent in this way is going to hold back health innovation in this country.”

The report, called Enterprise in health: Exploring involvement of clinicians and academics, points out that 80-90% of the companies in the study are linked to men.

The research looked at a sample of 32,978 doctors, 58% of whom were male and 42% female. It found that significantly more of the individuals connected to companies were male than female.

Among the clinicians with companies registered to their names, just 21% were female, meaning that only 1.6% of female clinicians were registered with a company compared to 4.3% of male clinicians.

The gender divide was even more pronounced among academics, with just 10% of the sample linked to companies being female.

Need for more emphasis on encouraging women

The report urges the Academic Heath Science Networks (AHSN) to extend its current focus on diversity in innovation to put greater emphasis on encouraging and supporting women.

The authors also note that although the AHSN has stressed the importance of collaboration between the NHS, universities and industry for effective innovation, the study found only very limited evidence of overlapping involvement between universities and NHS Trusts in the companies identified.

When it comes to specialties, the most entrepreneurial clinicians worked in fields related to otolaryngology, trauma & orthopaedic surgery, and urology. Among academics, the highest proportion of companies were linked to individuals working in medicine, engineering and computer science.

The findings also suggest that it may be easier to identify individuals who are linked to companies operating in the technology space (for example development of medical devices) than pharmaceuticals.

The authors recommend that further work is undertaken to compare these findings against enterprising activities in less prolific and research intense Trusts and universities.

This will enable an assessment of the performance of support for enterprise and innovation for the Government’s levelling up agenda.

A copy of the report Enterprise in health: Exploring involvement of clinicians and academics is available here