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Government appoints health minister from firm trying to win NHS contracts

Published on 14/01/19 at 10:59am

The British Government has come under fire over the appointment of former Tory MP, Nicola Blackwood, as a junior minister in the Department of Health and Social Care, after it was revealed that she had previously sat on the governance board of a company hoping to be contracted by the NHS.

The former Tory MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, who lost her seat in 2017, was revealed to have worked for online medical consultation service Push Doctor, as the private firm’s Strategy and Governance Board Member. Blackwood will leave her role at Push Doctor to take up her new position in government. Holding a degree in music, Blackwood will be responsible for advising the government on its digital health strategy.

The appointment comes just days after the government announced the NHS would receive an additional £20 billion a year in funding – a proportion of which would be used to radically increase the number of online consultations. The government hopes that a third of the 90 million NHS outpatient appointments performed annually will be conducted via video link. The announcement has fuelled a rush among online consultation firms hoping to win NHS contracts.

Prior concern had been raised in February last year, after the pro-fox hunting and anti-gay marriage politician took up her position with Push Doctor. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, an advisory, non-departmental, anti-corruption watchdog, in writing to Blackwood, noted that: “Push Doctor could gain an unfair advantage as a result of your contacts gained across Government/ Whitehall during your time in ministerial office.”

The appointment raises concern’s as to the government’s ‘revolving door’ through which high level industry professionals enter government and influence policy. Meanwhile, NHS England’s chief digital officer Juliet Bauer has announced she will leave her current role to join rival online GP company Livi.

Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders commented: “This is yet another shocking example of private health companies getting far too close to Tory Ministers.”

Louis Goss

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