The Health Council issues advisory reports independently. This means that the advisory reports shine the spotlight on the state of science, undistorted by the interests of people or organisations. Transparency concerning potential interests is thus an important prerequisite.
Openness and weighing interests
Possible interests are an ever-present reality. In order to issue the best possible advisory reports, the Health Council uses top experts. These experts also regularly provide their specific expertise to other institutions, such as patient organisations, government bodies or businesses. The fact that someone has different roles and contacts is not necessarily a problem. As a general requirement, a committee member may not have a direct personal or financial interest in a particular advisory report. The Health Council ensures transparency with respect to any potential interests. There is always a conscious weighing of whether a conflict of interests may arise and whether any interests within a committee are sufficiently offset.
Procedure for appointing members to the Health Council, Standing Committee or Committee
All experts who contribute to the work of the Health Council fill in a declaration of interests. This declaration is part of the Code for the prevention of improper influence due to conflicts of interests. He or she also provides information about research funds received and any personal financial interests. Based on this, the Board of the Health Council decides whether or not someone can participate. In the (Standing)Committees all declarations are discussed, so that the members are informed of one another’s positions and interests.
Declarations of interest available on the website
The declarations of interest are periodically updated, are publically available and are posted on the website. Those of members of the Standing Committee and Permanent Committees can be found at the relevant heading. The declarations of the members of ad-hoc committees will be found at the relevant advisory reports. If experts have contributed to various activities, a number of declarations of interest are available.
Contributing as an advisor or observer
Sometimes, there are only a few experts with a particular expertise. If their input is vital to an advisory report but they have possible interests preventing them from becoming committee members, it is possible for them to act as advisors. If an expert works for a Ministry or for an organization under its authority, he or she is automatically appointed advisor. An advisor attends some of the deliberations or sometimes makes one-time contribution, but has no right to vote when conclusions and recommendations are formulated and does not bear joint responsibility for the content of the advisory report.
As a rule, one or more observers are assigned to a (Standing)Committee. They represent a Ministry or other governmental organization, but are not necessarily experts. Observers have often been involved in formulating a request for advice and will be involved in formulating a ministerial response to the advisory report or in implementing policy measures. Like advisors they have no right to vote.