Newly appointed health secretary Matt Hancock received £32,000 in donations from the chairman of a think tank which critics say is trying to “abolish the NHS”.
After becoming an MP in 2010 Mr Hancock has received regular donations of between £2,000 and £4,000 from millionaire currency manager and Conservative Party donor Neil Record.
Mr Record heads the board of free market group the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a vocal critic of the current NHS model.
Its head of health and welfare, economist Kieran Niemitz, has argued “opponents of ‘NHS privatisation’ are really opposed to patient choice”. He has also called the service one of the most “overrated, inefficient systems in the world”.
Campaigners told The Independent they were worried a man with ideological and financial ties to this group would be in charge of the health service at such a critical juncture in its history.
“The IEA is very much a right-wing, free market think tank and there’s loads of evidence they want to abolish the NHS and make it much more market based with privatisation,” said consultant oncologist and NHS campaigner Dr Clive Peedell. “They share the same philosophy, so that might be on the agenda.
“I also worry about his lack of experience; he’s got no background in healthcare policy that I could find.”
Mr Hancock’s link to the IEA was reported in 2016 by The Independent after he received a £4,000 donation from Mr Record, before announcing a crackdown on charity lobbying – another policy promoted by the think tank.
In 2016 the IEA published a report on alternatives to the health service entitled Universal healthcare without the NHS.
It argues that social insurance models used in some other European countries could improve the NHS’s poor survival rates for things like cancers and heart disease.
In these systems the public buy a health insurance policy, which may have varying levels of out-of-pocket costs or co-payments and the government subsidises these based on income and health needs.
Mr Record has chaired the board of trustees at the IEA since 2015, but was previously a member of its board for seven years. He has also backed climate change denial think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
The Register of MPs’ Financial Interests shows Mr Hancock has received nine donations, some of which predate his time in government and there is no suggestion that he has broken any funding rules.
The IEA said Mr Record has no “commercial or lobbying-type relationship” with the new health secretary, and the IEA is independent of any political party
A spokesperson added: “The IEA’s work on healthcare outlines the potential improvements if the NHS adopted reforms which are common in other European countries. Its only ‘agenda’ is on improving patient outcomes.”
The Department of Health said it was not commenting on the Mr Hancock’s donations but said he is committed to an NHS that remains free at the point of use.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies