Radical NHS changes could lead to hospitals being sponsored by companies like Burger King or Coca Cola, Labour claimed last night.
MP Grahame Morris furiously rejected the idea raised by a health minister as “outrageous” and called for the Coalition to spell out its plans clearly.
The MP for Easington said: “What happens if fast-food manufacturers and fizzy drink companies try to associate themselves with parts of the NHS to try promote their products and give themselves credibility?”
He was reacting to a statement from Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter which said: “There will be an ongoing sponsorship relationship between the Department and the Board which will be outlined in a framework agreement.”
His words came in a written answer to Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne. It hints at how the Department of Health will work with NHS England – the new independent committee responsible modernising the NHS.
Mr Morris added: “The Minister’s answer, and particularly the use of the word ‘sponsorship’, worries me.
“It would be outrageous if this is the start of sections of the NHS being sponsored by private companies and members of the public would be outraged. It seems to be a privatisers’ charter if the Government is seriously considering introducing sponsorship.”
Mr Morris said it was crucial there was more transparency in the new process.
He said: “Given concerns we have about obesity and diabetes, what sort of example would be we set if we allowed sponsorship from fast-food manufacturers or fizzy drink companies – let alone private health-care companies?
NHS England is the new name for the NHS Commissioning Board which was created in October last year. According to its website NHS England is “arm’s length” from the Government and will play a key role in the ConDem vision to modernise the health service.
Its aim is to secure: “The best possible health outcomes for patients by prioritising them in every decision it makes.”
But MP Morris is wary of it.
He said: “We need to know how many members of the new board have links with companies including those involved in private healthcare.
“There could be a real conflict of interest.”
The shadow Health Minister tabled questions to the Minister over changes under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which came in on April 1.
Critics say NHS England is only accountable to the Department of Health on a yearly basis and this means the NHS has virtually been privatised already.
But an NHS England source said: “This parliamentary question is very much in relation to how the Department of Health will sponsor and or work with NHS England rather than any other third party.”
This article appeared in the Daily Mirror – 22nd April 2013