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Wednesday, May 24, 2006 

A clear conflict of interest

The most recent edition of the Surrey Advertiser reports the following:
A major shake-up of the health service across the South East has been agreed which will see services such as GP surgeries delivered by one organisation in Surrey... the number of primary care trusts (PCTs) - the organisations which run GP surgeries, community hospitals and commission care from acute hospitals - will be reduced nationally from 303 to 152. Five PCTs in Surrey - North Surrey, East Surrey, Surrey Heath & Woking, Guildford & Waverly and East Elmbridge & Mid Surrey- will amalgamate to form one county-wide trust.

OK, we're talking health here, so Anne "I'm a nurse!" Milton clearly has the inside track... and certainly must know something we don't when she makes a rare out-of-step move like this:
Leader of Conservative run Surrey County Council Nick Skellett has welcomed the creation of one PCT.... However, Guildford's Tory MP Anne Milton has dubbed the changes to PCTs as "disruptive, destabilising and making patient care suffer".
Disruptive, destabilising... and making patient health care suffer. I suspect there's a reason that Amme's objections are prioritised in this way, and that the reason is hidden in the following list:

Saroj Auplish - Director of Public Health, North Surrey PCT
Graham Henderson - Director of Public Health, East Surrey PCT
Judi Linney - Director of Public Health, Surrey Heath & Woking PCT
Ruth Milton - Director of Public Health, Guildford & Waverly PCT
Jonathan Hildebrand - Director of Public Health, East Elmbridge & Mid Surrey PCT

(I bet you're looking at the name 'Ruth Milton' right now and screaming; "Gotcha!". Heh. Sorry to tease... but we're not there yet. Ruth Milton is not related to Anne Milton. At all.)

When the five PCTs amalgamate to form one county-wide trust, you can be sure that they will not be needing five Directors of Public Health.

Also, the new Director of Public Health - whoever that may turn out to be - is most likely to be based at Woking. (Out of all the current PCT offices, Woking has the most office space and the best communications; it's not centrally-located, but it's sure to be any bean-counter's primary choice.)

This is sure to worry one Director of Public Health in particular... Dr Graham Henderson.

Dr Graham Henderson is one of the few regional Directors without a secondary role to fall back on (many of the people on this list have a dual role such as 'Director of Public Health and Medical Director') and even if he is awarded the new central position of Director of Public Health for Surrey, Dr Henderson's commute will switch from Reigate to Earlswood (about 2 miles) to Reigate to Woking (about 20 miles).

As it turns out, Dr Graham Henderson's wife already has to drive approximately 20 miles to her office and/or the occasional event... in Guildford.

Yes, folks... we're finally there:

Dr Graham Henderson, Director of Public Health for the East Surrey PCT, is the husband of Anne Milton, Guildford MP.

(Sidebar: Currently, the only online record that exists that shows that these two people are connected by marriage is on this weblog. Please leave any tips in the jar.)

Now, why do you think Anne Milton would disagree with her Conservative colleague so boldly by describing the upcoming changes to PCTs as "disruptive, destabilising and making patient care suffer"....?

Could it be because of a clear conflict of interest?

Anne herself must surely recognise this. Why else would she declare a nameless husband on an unnamed trust to the House during this debate?

Sadly, that's as far as Anne's transparency goes. Her husband's role and its possible impact on her participation in any debate on the subject of Surrey-based PCTs is not listed in her Register of Members' Interests and - while the relevant letter is not included in the report - there appears to be no record of her making any such declaration when she recently gave evidence to the Surrey Health Scrutiny Committee (PDF).

When it comes to any comment or consultation on upcoming changes to primary care trusts, Anne Milton should keep her mouth shut... and if she can't keep her mouth shut, then the first words that dribble from her lips should be "While my husband's future income and convenience depends greatly on maintaining the status quo, I do feel that I should say this..."

That way, when she describes the impending PCT changes as "disruptive, destabilising and making patient care suffer", people will know that she means disruptive for her husband and destabilising to her routine... and that any mention of patient care is a mere afterthought.

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I cannot believe she has not declared that as a potential conflict of interest. The holding of directorships in particular are a disclosure requirement I understand.

However, there may be a clause if they do not live at the same address which is entirely feasible given she holds a constituency flat away from her real home. Also with a different surname, she'd assume it'd be undetectable or unproven, unless she is seperated or divorced from her husband.

Worse still, it constitutes nepotism i.e. it implies it is entirely possible that family members have each assisted in acquiring jobs for each other as they are not impartial in the decision making process for hiring.

This implies that Graham Henderson, Ruth Milton & Anne Milton may have acquired their jobs unfairly & disadvantaging other equally qualified external candidates for the job, for their own self-interest. In a day and age in which diversity and equality is promoted regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, it's quite serious to simply keep these members of societies out of priviledged positions in favour of family members.

Furthermore, it might be interesting to look into Shaftesbury Housing group and whether they tender bids for the London Borough or Merton for which Mr. Paul I understand was once responsible for housing.

Go further still...check Companies House and whether she or her husband or any other relatives holds shares in any publically listed pharmaceutical companies or any of the suppliers of goods to PCTs for which she has inside knowledge of orders. That was as directors they can be accused of insider dealing.

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." (The Bard of Avon.)

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Hi Rob.

Just a quick note for the record:

I think it's clear in this post that I make no accusations about the propriety of Ruth Milton's position.

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But - just to make sure that there's no confusion - this passage has been amended:

(I bet you're looking at the name 'Ruth Milton' right now and screaming; "Gotcha!". Heh. Sorry to tease... but we're not there yet.)

It now reads as follows:

(I bet you're looking at the name 'Ruth Milton' right now and screaming; "Gotcha!". Heh. Sorry to tease... but we're not there yet. Ruth Milton is not related to Anne Milton. At all.)

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It's a good thing she's not on the Ethics & Standards committee.

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If she has not declared a potential conflict of interest then that is one issue. It is quite another to then jump to suggest that her opposition is motivated by a conflict of interest. What if she is correct, and it will be "disruptive, destabilising and (make) patient care suffer".

Perhaps in a future post you could explore the substance or otherwise of the key arguments.

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Even if her statement was purely altruistic, it is undermined by this undeclared conflict of interest, and therefore amounts to a disservice to the patients she claims to care so much about.

So let us do as you suggest and explore the likely possibilities...

Did she not declare the conflict of interest because she's crooked, or because she's incompetent?

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    Hi. I'm Tim. I live in Guildford. I've built a few political weblogs here and there. If you're wondering why I decided to start this particular blog, click here.


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