Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Tony is gagging for it too!

The Labour Party has attempted to gag one of its own MPs who strongly criticised a £90 million deal between the NHS and a private health company linked to Alan Milburn, Labour's general election supremo.
Kevan Jones, the MP for North Durham, was rebuked by local party officials after revealing that patients from his constituency were being sent 20 miles for private MRI scans, even though their own local hospital had a machine standing idle.

Mr Milburn: consultant to a firm that owned Alliance Medical
Mr Jones came out strongly in support of John Saxby, the chief executive of the University Hospital of North Durham, who complained about the purchase of scans from Alliance Medical, while his own NHS scanner was "considerably under-employed".
The row originally appeared to be little more than a local furore. However, it led to serious concerns in the higher reaches of the Labour Party because of the links between Alliance Medical and Mr Milburn.
Mr Milburn was paid £30,000 for a six-month stint as a consultant to the venture capitalists Bridgepoint, which owns Alliance Medical. While he was on the company's books, during the period between his departure as Health Secretary in 2003 and his return to the Government last September, the £90 million scanner deal was signed.
The contract was announced by John Hutton, the health minister and a close friend and former flatmate of Mr Milburn.
Mr Saxby originally wrote to Mr Jones, claiming that money poured by the Government into the private sector with the aim of reducing waiting lists, could have been better spent on the NHS.
Mr Jones went public with a furious assault on the policy of private-sector involvement in the health service, which had been championed by Mr Milburn when he was Health Secretary.
He described the situation that saw patients told to travel 20 miles to a hospital in Middlesbrough as "frankly ridiculous" and warned ministers to put their plans for a greater private-sector involvement "to one side".
He added: "If it is the case that the zeal of certain people in the Government to continually push the boundaries of the private sector in the health service has led to a poor service for my constituents, then I think it does need a closer examination."
His comments, The Telegraph understands, provoked a telephone call to the MP from a Labour Party official demanding an explanation and warning him that they should not be repeated.
Mr Jones last night refused to comment on the revelation that Labour had tried to lean on him. However, he insisted that he would continue to ask ministers questions about the scanner deal.
He said: "There are a lot of questions to be answered. I can't believe this arrangement is in the interests of patients in my constituency or anywhere else."
In total, he has tabled 20 parliamentary questions to health ministers.
While he was out of office, Mr Milburn had to manage without his former £71,433-a-year minister's salary. However, he made use of his extra spare time to earn £85,000 from speeches, articles and advice, including his Bridgepoint role.
Since his return, with the official Cabinet title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he has been paid £130,347 a year, a figure that has provoked a political row. The Conservatives argue that the taxpayer should not have to fund Mr Milburn's salary because he is engaged almost exclusively on Labour Party, and not Government, business.


pcsolotto said...

Such a nice blog. I hope you will create another post like this.

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