Controversy over government’s ‘revolving door’ is reignited as it’s revealed new Health Minister worked for firm trying to win NHS contracts
- New Health Minister has been working for Skype-style GP appointment company
- Former Tory MP Nicola Blackwood sat on the governance board of Push Doctor
- Ms Blackwood was announced as the Health Minister for Innovation last week
- Her new role was announced only days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed details of a scheme to radically increase online consultations
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 [File photo]
Controversy over the ‘revolving door’ between the Government and business was reignited last night after it emerged that a newly appointed Health Minister has been working for a fast-growing Skype-style 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.
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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.’
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 [File photo]
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 for 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 another video GP consultation company.
Juliet Bauer told colleagues that she was leaving ‘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.
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