Alan Milburn's personal interest in resisting a public NHS

Alan Milburn: Personally interested in private healthcare
Alan Milburn: Personally interested in private healthcare
Adam Bienkov By

What do Alan Milburn and John Hutton have in common?

Well the first thing they have in common is that both are former ministers in Tony Blair's government.

The second thing they have in common is that both were appointed to work on reviews and commissions under the current Conservative-led government.

The third thing they have in common is that yesterday they both attacked Labour's new anti NHS privatisation policy as a "fatal" error which could cost Labour the election.


Their comments followed a speech by Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham in which he pledged that the party would "call time on the Tory market experiment in the NHS."

This new pledge was immediately attacked by Milburn as a "fatal mistake".

"It would be a fatal mistake for Labour to go into this election looking as though it is the party that would better resource the NHS but not necessarily put its foot to the floor when it comes to reforming it," he told the World at One.

These comments were promptly backed by Hutton. Asked about Burnham's pledge to "cement" public provision of the NHS over the market, he replied that "I really don't think that is where we should focus all our efforts" adding that there needed to be fundamental reform of the NHS instead.

However there is one final and crucial area which the two men have in common.

Both men have direct interests in the private healthcare industry.

Two years ago PriceWaterhouseCoopers announced that Milburn would chair their new Health Industry Oversight Board.

Commenting on his appointment, Milburn claimed that there were "strong opportunities for growth" in the private healthcare sector, which he would help PWC to exploit.

Among his other interests, Milburn also sits on the strategic advisory board for private healthcare company WellDoc, has been a vice-chairman of the Lloyds Pharmacy advisory board and chairs the healthcare industry company I Want Great Care.

Hutton is also far from an independent commentator on the issue. According to his register of interests, Lord Hutton is currently a director of private healthcare firm Circle Holdings. Like Milburn, he is also an adviser to PWC.

This final area of common interest seems pretty crucial in any discussion of their intervention yesterday.

When two people - both of whom work for private healthcare firms - attack Labour's pledge to reduce the role of private healthcare firms, journalists should at least make that interest clear.

Yet none of the coverage in the papers this morning even bothered to mention Hutton and Milburn's direct interests in the matter.

Recent polling shows that the future of the NHS is now voters' main concern.

If we are going to have any kind of serious debate about it, it is vital we understand exactly where people like Hutton and Milburn are coming from.

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