MPs condemn scheme allowing them to jump NHS queues

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs have condemned a £20,000 parliamentary scheme that will allow them to queue jump other NHS patients at the taxpayers' expense.

MPs and peers are to be given access to special sessions at an NHS primary care practice from which members of the public will be barred.

The House of Commons confirmed yesterday that it would pay for three sessions a week for MPs only at the Victoria Medical Centre near Parliament.

Unlike other NHS patients, MPs will not have to wait in a queue but will have a slot booked for them by a House of Commons nurse. MPs have been instructed to invent an "alias" if they wish to use the designated surgery.

"To ensure confidentiality, you will be asked for an alias of the same sex and approximately the same age when you first register. This will be used on all pathology/blood specimens," a letter to MPs said. "If you phone the surgery direct and are put through to the answering service, please use your alias so your confidentiality can be protected."

The unusual instructions to protect the identity of MPs will raise questions about whether confidentiality for ordinary members of the public is guaranteed.

Yesterday Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said MPs should not be singled out for preferential treatment. "The answer is to get the health service in a satisfactory state where everybody gets good treatment, not just the privileged few," he said.

MPs, most of whom travel hundreds of miles to the House of Commons from their constituencies where they are registered with their local GPs, already have access to health care at Westminster. They have two occupational health doctors, two nurses and emergency equipment to deal with heart attacks.

A spokeswoman for the Commons denied that the system amounted to "queue jumping" and said that Parliament would pay for the special clinics. But Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, said in the The Mail on Sunday that he disapproved of queue jumping by MPs. "It's another example of politicians' double standards," he said.

The Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson said that "serious questions" needed to be asked about the scheme. "I am not aware of any demand for a special GP service."

The Tory MP Gerald Howarth warned:"If MPs award themselves preferential treatment it will make people more cynical about politics."