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New health secretary accepted £30k in donations from anti-NHS think tank

The new health secretary Matt Hancock has allegedly accepted donations from the chairman of a think-tank that supports the privatisation of the NHS.

Hancock, who was appointed by Theresa May following Jeremy Hunt’s appointment as foreign secretary in a dramatic cabinet reshuffle, received the payments from Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) chair Neil Record, who was appointed IEA chair in 2015 after seven years on its board.

The donations include £4,000 to Hancock on 29 November 2013 for, in Hancock’s register of member’s financial interests, support of “my parliamentary work and travel costs in my capacity as an MP.”

A separate donation was made to the West Suffolk MP on 28 November 2012 for the same amount from the IEA chair.

Record is the chair of the think tank that has recently published a paper titled ‘How to Structurally Reform the National Health Service to Improve Patient Outcomes’ written by Dr Kristian Niemietz, who in 2015 published an article on the IEA website claiming “the NHS is not worth defending.”

In Dr Niemietz’s latest paper, he said: “Universal healthcare coverage is routinely praised as a unique British achievement, although this long ago ceased to be the case. In reality, Social Health Insurance models are common in Europe and most OECD countries.

“These rate more highly for public satisfaction, deliver better outcomes, while proving definitively that universal health coverage is not unique to the NHS.”

Similarly, an IEA statement to mark the 70th birthday of the health service said that the NHS is “older, but none the wiser,” with “no level of adoration or praise” making up for the fact that its “poor performance is costing thousands of lives each year.”

“As demographics continue to shift and pressures on the NHS become more burdensome, it is time to look to the Social Health Insurance systems in Europe, under which thousands more people survive serious conditions every year, including strokes and common types of cancer,” argued Kate Andrews, news editor at the think tank.

“Tomorrow, the balloons will have deflated, the cake will be stale, and the NHS will be back to business as usual – that is, dealing with perpetual crises, one day after another. Let’s be honest about the NHS’s failures now, while there is still time to fix it.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has not issued a departmental line on the matter, but has said Hancock is “utterly committed” to the values of the NHS and ensuring it remains entirely free at the point of use. It also noted that all donations received are all listed in the Register of Interests, in line with standard practice.

Justin Madders, shadow minister for health and social care, said it was a “disgrace” that the prime minister has appointed a health secretary with links to organisations that want to “break it up and sell it off.”

A spokesperson for the IEA said: “Neil Record’s support for Matt Hancock not only pre-dates his elevation to the Chairmanship of the IEA, but it also pre-dates Matt Hancock’s promotion to any Government post. For the avoidance of doubt, he has never had any commercial or any other lobbying-type relationship with Matt in any of his Ministerial posts, nor has he ever discussed his responsibilities in any context that relates to him personally, or his Chairmanship of the IEA.

“His donation is personal. It is already in the public domain that he is a personal supporter of, and donor to, the Conservative Party. This in no way alters the IEA’s position of independence from alignment with any political party.”



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