By Sasjkia Otto
Andrew Lansley, the Conservative shadow health secretary, came under fire yesterday at a hustings for the alleged role of big business in his party's finances and policies.
Mr Lansley and his party were criticised at the hustings held in central London for accepting funding from the wife of the chairman of Care UK, a private healthcare firm that received £400 million from the NHS last year.
Would-be health secretaries, Labour's Andy Burnham, Conservative Andrew Lansley and Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb answered questions from nurses, doctors, NHS workers, health experts, and members of the public. They raised concerns about how services would be adapted to the current financial climate.
Mr Lamb attacked Mr Lansley for receiving £21,000 from the wife of John Nash to run his private office. He expressed concerns for NHS accountability if services were delegated to private bidders under Conservative control.
"Sometimes a competitive challenge in the way in which services are provided can be a good thing and it will be necessary in the very tough financial climate we face," said Mr Lamb. "But. there must be no special favours."
Mr Lansley was also criticised for refusing to set a minimum alcohol price in spite of research suggesting a floor would limit teenage alcohol consuption without affecting poor people.
Keith Brent, deputy chair of the BMA consultants committee said: "It is about being beholden to big business and supermarkets."
However, Mr Lansley denied the Conservative Party was "in hock with anybody on health". He insisted donations were raised by his party's central office, declared and reported. He said his alcohol policies were to protect poor families.