Pavilion Health Today
Supporting healthcare professionals to deliver the best patient care

Doctors “horrified” after investigation reveals GMC funds junk food companies

An investigation by The BMJ has found that the General Medical Council has invested nearly £870,000 in ‘junk food’ and soft drink companies.

An investigation by The BMJ has found that the General Medical Council  (GMC) has invested nearly £870,000 in ‘junk food’ and soft drink companies.

Nestlé, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, and Unilever (which owns ice cream brands Magnum, Wall’s, and Ben & Jerry’s) are among the companies the GMC has invested in, and medics say they are “horrified” that doctors’ hard-earned cash is funding food and drink companies that fuel poor health.

GMC must show “that it is using its funds wisely”

All UK doctors must register for the GMC before practising. They are charged £161 as a one-off registration fee and then £420 in ongoing annual fees.

Glasgow GP Margaret McCartney said that since these fees are compulsory, the GMC “must show that it is using its funds wisely”. “I’m not convinced it is,” she said.

“It is unclear to me why the GMC holds so much money and why it has chosen to invest as it has. When the chief executive is paid over a quarter of a million per year, and a further six staff on more than £200,000, doctors should know, with complete transparency, where their fees are being invested and why,” she added.

Martin McKee, professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Many doctors whose work involves dealing with the harms caused by junk food marketing would, if they knew, despair at how their money is being invested.”

GMC has invested millions in pharma companies and medical device manufacturers

The GMC has also invested:

  • £1.2 million in pharmaceutical companies (including Novo Nordisk, AstraZeneca, Merck, and Roche)
  • £470,000 in private insurance and healthcare providers (including Humana Health and UnitedHealth Group)
  • £1.3 million in medical device manufacturers (including Edwards LifeSciences, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Intuitive Surgical, the makers of the da Vinci robotic surgical system).

Although all the regulator’s investments are handled by the Churches, Charities and Local Authorities Investment Management (CCLA), the GMC told The BMJ that it does have a say in what its money is invested in.

Funding junk food companies “no different” to investing in tobacco industry

All of the regulator’s investments are subject to ethical restrictions, and the CCLA is forbidden from investing in products and services such as tobacco, alcohol, pornography, gambling and high-interest rate lending, a spokesperson said.

“In addition, we are able to exclude companies where we have concerns about their approach to corporation tax,” the spokesperson added.

However, Sam Everington, a Tower Hamlets GP and chair of Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group said this is “no different” to investing in tobacco companies, due to the harmful effects of junk food on health.

She said: “The GMC is funded by doctors in the UK. They would be horrified to know that their money is being invested in fast food companies that are the cause of so much disease and reduced quality and quantity of life and significantly more pressure on the NHS and workload of doctors.”

The regulator is now considering whether the current exclusions remain relevant, and it may now publish its investments on its website to ensure transparency.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read more ...

Privacy & Cookies Policy