New Health Min­is­ter worked for f irm try­ing to win NHS con­tracts

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Stephen Adams HEALTH COR­RE­SPON­DENT

CON­TRO­VERSY over the ‘ re­volv­ing door’ be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and busi­ness was reignited l ast night af­ter it emerged that a newly ap­pointed Health Min­is­ter has been work­ing for a fast-grow­ing Skypestyle GP ap­point­ment com­pany.

For­mer Tory MP Nicola Black­wood, who was a Health Min­is­ter when she lost her seat at the 2017 Elec­tion, con­tro­ver­sially re­ceived a peer­age from Theresa May in the New Year Hon­ours List.

Last week, she was an­nounced as the new Health Min­is­ter for In­no­va­tion af­ter be­ing el­e­vated to the House of Lords.

How­ever, The Mail on Sun­day has es­tab­lished that af­ter los­ing her Ox­ford West and Abing­don seat, she be­came a paid ad­viser to Push Doc­tor, an on­line GP ser­vice hop­ing to gain a foothold into the vast NHS mar­ket.

Ms Black­wood sat on the gov­er­nance board of Push Doc­tor, which of­fers pri­vate ‘pay as you go’ video con­sul­ta­tions priced at £30 for ten min­utes and wants to work with the NHS, as well as ad­vis­ing it on how to ex­pand its dig­i­tal health ser­vices. In her new min­is­te­rial post, Ms Black­wood will be re­spon­si­ble for dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies in the NHS.

Last night, shadow Health Min­is­ter Justin Mad­ders said: ‘This is yet an­other shock­ing ex­am­ple of pri­vate health com­pa­nies get­ting far too close to Tory Min­is­ters.’

A source close to Ms Black­wood said she ac­cepted the Push Doc­tor role last spring when she had no plans to re­turn to the Gov­ern­ment and that the Health Min­is­ter va­cancy in the Lords only arose a month ago.

The source added Ms Black­wood never had an ex­ec­u­tive role at Push Doc­tor, would not be di­rectly in­volved in NHS pro­cure­ment de­ci­sions and said her el­e­va­tion to the Lords has been ap­proved by the House of Lords Ap­point­ments Com­mis­sion.

How­ever, her role at Push Doc­tor did raise eye­brows at the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee on busi­ness ap­point­ments, the anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog. In a let­ter to Ms Black­wood last Fe­bru­ary, of­fi­cials wrote: ‘Although you do not in­tend to have con­tact with Gov­ern­ment in this role, there may be a risk that Push Doc­tor could gain an un­fair ad­van­tage as a re­sult of your con­tacts gained across Gov­ern­ment/White­hall dur­ing your time in min­is­te­rial of­fice.’

Her new role was an­nounced only days af­ter Health Sec­re­tary Matt Han­cock re­vealed de­tails of a scheme to rad­i­cally in­crease on­line con­sul­ta­tions.

The Gov­ern­ment hopes that a third of the 90 mil­lion NHS out­pa­tient ap­point­ments per­formed an­nu­ally will be con­ducted by video-link, an aim likely to trig­ger a feed­ing frenzy among pri­vate GP con­sul­ta­tion firms such as Push Doc­tor, Dr Doc­tor and Baby­lon, which al­ready of­fers an NHS ser­vice.

A De­part­ment f or Health spokesman said: ‘To avoid any per­cep­tion of con­flict of in­ter­est, Nicola Black­wood re­signed from all other paid and un­paid ad­vi­sory roles in ad­vance of her ap­point­ment.’

Mean­while, NHS Eng­land’s chief dig­i­tal of­fi­cer is join­ing a not her vi deo GP c o ns ul t a - tion com­pany.

Juliet Bauer told col­leagues t hat she was l eav­ing ‘ with im­me­di­ate ef­fect’ to join Livi, a Swedish firm that holds NHS con­tracts to pro­vide on­line GP ap­point­ments in Sur­rey and the North West of Eng­land.

PEER­AGE: Tory Nicola Black­wood

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.