'Revolving door' leads ex-health chief into job with lobbying firm

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England's former chief medical officer has joined a global lobbying firm advising companies in the private health industry.

Sir Liam Donaldson, who retired last year after 12 years in the post, has been recruited by APCO Worldwide as a member of its international advisory council. The company has a string of UK healthcare clients including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers.

The appointment has renewed concern about former ministers and senior civil servants moving to positions in industries which they were previously monitoring. Last year, APCO signed up the former Labour cabinet minister John Hutton as a consultant.

The Labour MP Paul Flynn told PR Week: "This looks like another worrying example of the revolving door from independent public service to the world of commerce. There is widespread concern that former ministers, civil servants and generals swiftly metamorphose from high office into the paid servants of business, possibly after hawking around their contacts book and insider knowledge."

Sir Liam, 62, told The Independent yesterday he would be spending "a day every two months" working for APCO and would be paid on a fee-for-service basis. Most of his time was spent working in the public sector – he is the World Health Organisation's envoy for patient safety and chair of the monitoring board for the eradication of polio, among other posts.

"It is not particularly significant because I have not got much time for consultancy work. I get paid for the jobs I do, not for sitting on the advisory council," he said. "The kind of work I will be doing will be giving a speech or leading a seminar for health policy makers."

Ministers and top civil servants have to notify the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) of any new jobs taken up within two years of leaving office. Sir Liam said he was restricted from lobbying the Government, the usual condition imposed on people in his position.