‘Shock’ over MP’s health links

A SKEGNESS councillor has accused a local Conservative MP of walking a dangerous ethical minefield after it was reported that he is paid £50,000 a year to advise a private health firm that stands to make a fortune under Coalition plans for the NHS.

Last week the national press revealed that Boston & Skegness member Mark Simmonds is paid £400 an hour to advise Circle Health, which was the first firm to win control of an NHS hospital under government reforms.

Mr Simmonds has stressed that his involvement with Circle Health is on his official register of interests in parliament and that no rules have been broken.

But Skegness Coun Mark Anderson has spoken of his shock at the news, and has branded it a worrying conflict of interests.

“I’m obviously very concerned about his involvement in this at a time when our own local health care, such as Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital, is having such difficulties.

“There are so many problems at Pilgrim Hospital and he’s even made a statement before that he wouldn’t send his own family there in its current state - and yet he lets his own constituents continue to go there while he’s earning money from private care.

“There are ethical questions here. It’s a sad reflection - it looks like he’s using his position as MP.”

In a statement to the Standard Mr Simmonds, said: “It is correct that I provide strategic advice to a health social enterprise called Circle.

“Circle is very much part of the NHS family and already provides services to many patients across the country.

“They are an excellent healthcare provider who put the patients first. I am a strong supporter of the NHS and believe it should remain free at the point of use and fully available to those who need it.

“I also firmly believe that it is very important for MPs to have outside interests. Debates are better informed and the impact of legislation is better understood if politicians have external and additional knowledge and experience.

“It is imperative that MPs have an understanding of the ‘real world’. MPs’ outside interests are fully declared in the Register of Member’s Interests,” he added.

Circle were unavailable for comment.