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Tuesday 18th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

A LABOUR MP who accused Richard Branson’s privateer health outfit of booking “double appointments” for cancer patients has now said the company is “trying to obscure the truth.”

Virgin Care, which takes on outsourced NHS contracts, denied Paula Sherriff’s claims that it was “forcing patients to have unnecessary extra consultations before surgery.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions last week, Ms Sherriff said this boosted Virgin’s profits “at the expense of the taxpayer and patient safety.”

Last week the Dewsbury MP said she had raised concerns while working at the company after it took over the West Yorkshire NHS dermatology service.

A Virgin Care spokesman said there was “no record of ‘unethical practices’ being raised by her.”

But in a point of order in the Commons yesterday, Ms Sherriff said she had raised her concerns directly with Virgin Care chief executive Bart Johnson at a meeting in the autumn of 2012. 

“I think it is clear that they are implying dishonesty on my part,” she said. “In short, when they suggested that I was being dishonest, they were themselves actually trying to obscure the truth.”

Ms Sherriff suggested that the case was an example of “when the powerful abuse their power to intimidate or smear us.”

She asked Speaker John Bercow to consider whether Virgin Care had committed contempt of Parliament, a practice for which offenders may be summoned to the Commons to apologise.

She asked: “Can we reiterate to them that even the richest individuals and wealthiest corporations should always stick to the truth about this House and its members, however inconvenient that truth may be to their private interests?”

Mr Bercow replied: “I understand her concern if the veracity of what she volunteered in good faith to the House has subsequently been called into question.”

“If anybody was seeking to intimidate the honourable lady [Ms Sherriff] as she goes about her parliamentary business, manifestly any such attempt has failed.”

In her intervention last week, Ms Sherriff said patients could immediately undergo small surgical procedures after a single consultation before the service was privatised. She said doctors believed extra consultations could delay treatment.

Virgin Care had not responded to a request for comment when the Star went to press last night.