Interested in securing funding to attend a tissue viability or wound care conference?

There have been some changes in the ability of medical companies to sponsor healthcare professionals like you to attend educational events like the TVS conference.

In the past, many healthcare professionals have relied on medical companies to sponsor them to attend 3rd party educational conferences like TVS, EWMA, Wounds UK and EPUAP.

In 2017 the ABHI (Association of British Healthcare Industries) introduced a new chapter to their code of practice (CoBP) which means that member companies are no longer permitted to sponsor people like you to attend conferences. This directive came into force in January 2018.

Who is the ABHI?

ABHI is the UK industry association for the medical technology sector. It champions the development of safe, effective medical technologies to deliver high quality patient outcomes.

Members range from small and medium sized enterprises to leading multinational businesses.

The ABHI Code of Business Practice (CoBP) governs how healthcare professionals and member companies can work together in an ethical, transparent way. It is self-regulating – all members agree to follow its terms – with an official complaints process if violations are suspected.

How do the new rules affect HCPs?

So, no member company may invite, pay for, make arrangements for or in any way directly support an HCP to attend a 3rd party conference. This is applicable even if you are presenting a clinical poster or speaking in a free paper session that has been developed with a member company, The only time a company may support an HCP to attend a conference is if that person is speaking at a company sponsored symposia and then the support is only allowed to cover the duration of the symposia not the full conference.

There are also other changes to the code of practice which affect the companies and conference organisers:

  • New transparency and public disclosure requirements
  • Stricter rules on educational grants – a new way to get funding to attend the conference of your choice
  • The use of a conference vetting system – events must be assessed to ensure they comply with guidelines

Although these changes do not directly affect you as an HCP, you may see changes in the format and nature of conferences, the social events will be limited and the venues will be carefully chosen to ensure they fit with the guidelines and the conference may need to be vetted to ensure it complies with these regulations.

Are all medical companies members of the ABHI?

No, definitely not. However, many companies, but not all, abide by the code of practice even if they are not a member.

So, can I still obtain funding to attend a 3rd party organised conference?

Yes, although member companies cannot directly sponsor you to attend they are able to give Restricted Educational Grants to organisations who can use them to fund your attendance at a conference. Such organisations could be a healthcare organisation such as an NHS Trust or hospital or a conference organiser – for instance The TVS or Wounds UK etc

What is a Restricted Educational Grant?

A company can give an amount of money to any of the organisations listed above and the use of that money is restricted to funding HCPs to attend educational conferences such as the TVS Conference.

How do I access this funding?

  • Look on the conference website. The conference may have Educational Grants available for you to apply for. You can see what is included and you should be able to apply online. You will be informed if your application is successful and there may also be help available for the booking of hotel and travel.
  • Ask your Manager if your organisation has funding available for conference attendance. This often includes registration, travel and accommodation. If so, you or your manager will need to fill out paperwork to support your application and this will be passed to the company providing the Educational Grant for review. Again, there may be support you can access from the conference organisers for arranging travel and hotel booking – visit the conference website to check.

Is 3rd party education still valuable?

Yes, in the rapidly changing world of wounds and its sub-specialties, it is a necessity.

There are also many great ways to learn online: read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch how-to videos on YouTube, and attend webinars, just to name a few, but, while these activities add to knowledge bank, there is no substitute for live events – a conference, workshops, seminars and symposiums – which provide unique learning and career building opportunities that just cannot be found anywhere else.

Conferences enable healthcare professionals to keep up-to-date with important research, learn directly from experiences of others, share best practices, and develop new skills and techniques. All of these have a direct impact on daily clinical practice, helping us to improve safety and quality of care.

How can I help to ensure we still have access to 3rd party independent medical education?

Please spread the word about Educational Grants and the opportunities they offer to your colleagues, managers and friends. The transition period for the implementation of the new regulations will be extremely challenging and the more awareness exists the easier it will become.