An investigation found that doctors unwittingly fund fast food companies through their organization’s membership.
The GMC has investments totaling around £870,000 in food and soft drink companies Nestlé, McDonald’s, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Unilever, which owns brands such as Magnum Walls and Ben & Jerry’s.
The regulator, which charges UK doctors a one-off registration fee of £161 and then £420 annual continuing fee, has also invested more than £1.2m in drug companies since 2019.
Last night, doctors’ leaders said they would be “horrified” to see how their money was used, likening it to pouring money into tobacco companies.
GP Sam Everington, chair of the Tower Hamlets medical commissioning group, said: ‘They will be horrified to find out that their money is being invested in fast food companies that cause so much disease, reduce the quality and quantity of life and significantly more stress. On the NHS and the workload of doctors.
Doctors unwittingly fund fast food companies while paying fees to their regulators. [File image]
The rise of fast food outlets is seen as a driving factor for obesity especially among young adults, with a third of children becoming overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school.
A freedom of information request by the British Medical Journal revealed that the regulator had funds tied to fast food and soft drink companies.
It also found that more than £1.2m was put into pharmaceutical companies, including Novo Nordisk, AstraZeneca, Merck and Roche, while around £470,000 went to private insurers or healthcare providers such as Humana Health and UnitedHealth Group.
More than £1.3m has also been invested in a number of medical device manufacturers including Edwards LifeSciences and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
The British Medical Journal found that the General Medical Council has investments of nearly £870,000 in food and soft drink companies Nestlé, McDonald’s, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Unilever. [File image]
The regulator invests its money through the Churches, Charities and Local Authority Investment Administration (CCLA). She told the British magazine that she has a say in what CCLA invests in all decisions and accesses through CCLA reports.
GMC’s investment is £57.6m, as of January 2023.
It consists of investments in companies, funds, private equity firms, real estate, cash and money market securities.
Martin Mackie, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Many doctors whose work includes dealing with the harms of junk food marketing, if they knew, would despair of how to invest their money. A spokesperson for GMC said it has a duty to ensure that it protects and preserves the value of its financial assets.
We apply a number of ethical restrictions to the types of companies in which CCLA invests on our behalf.
This includes products and services such as tobacco, alcohol, pornography, gambling, and high-interest lending.
A GMC spokesperson said: ‘As a registered not-for-profit charity, we have a duty to ensure that we protect and safeguard the value of our financial assets – which primarily arise from doctors’ registration fees – in a manner that is consistent with our values.
We invest to ensure that our reserves are protected from inflation and we maintain enough free reserves to manage risk and ensure we have sufficient funds to cover our operations.
We chose CCLA (which serves the Church, Charities and Local Authorities) to manage our investments, because of its strong track record and high standards in ethical investing. We have access to all decisions through CCLA reports and we have a say in what they invest in, as we have specific ethical exceptions in our investment policy.
We apply a number of ethical restrictions to the types of companies in which CCLA invests on our behalf. This includes products and services such as tobacco, alcohol, pornography, gambling, and high-interest lending. In addition, we can exclude companies whose approach we have concerns about corporate taxation. The CCLA currently applies a zero-tolerance policy to companies involved in the production of landmines, cluster munitions, chemical and biological weapons, thermal coal mining, or tar sands and avoids investment altogether.
The investment policy is reviewed annually by the GMC Board. We are currently examining whether ethical exceptions and thresholds remain relevant. We do not currently publish information about our investments on our website, but this is something we will look into.
CCLA invests in a manner that takes into account environmental, social and governance factors. CCLA works with companies like Unilever, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Coca-Cola to get them committed to producing products that are healthy, easily accessible, and affordable. They have also introduced a benchmarking system regarding mental health, which ranks companies against a methodology that rates their approach to protecting their employees. This has led some companies to develop new mental health policies.