Health bosses back doctors

TOP health bosses have today backed a senior doctor's involvement with a new sexual health services contract - despite her husband sitting on the board of the private company taking over.

TOP health bosses have today backed a senior doctor's involvement with a new sexual health services contract - despite her husband sitting on the board of the private company taking over.

NHS Suffolk's (PCT) public health expert, Dr Amanda Jones, who is married to a GP who is on Take Care Now's (TCN) board, declared an interest to rule her out of working on the contract process which has caused uproar among health chiefs and workers.

But her bosses decided to allow her to chair meetings sorting out the detail of the new contract and how sexual health services in Suffolk will be run, and smoothing out concerns about the changeover.

Dr Jones is married to Debenham GP Dr David Egan who is a non-executive director of TCN.

This week The Evening Star revealed health bosses had been warned that allowing TCN to take over could throw sexual health services into chaos as it was revealed the private firm had no experience in providing these services and that key services will be cut to save money.

A leaked letter from chiefs at Ipswich Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital and Suffolk Community Healthcare revealed they felt the move could be disastrous for the already under pressure service at a time when sexually transmitted infections and abortions are on the rise in Suffolk.

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Dr Jones was also one of two NHS Suffolk workers listed as contacts during the consultation into the changes.

It follows controversy over an alleged conflict of interest when Suffolk NHS chief executive Carole Taylor Brown was also chairman of Anglia Cancer Network during the decisions to move head and neck cancer services from Ipswich to Norwich.

Today NHS chiefs stressed that Dr Jones had not influenced the awarding of the contract to TCN but said her input to the talks was vital because of her expertise.

Campaigners though say it is another symptom of things wrong with the NHS.

Roy Gray, chairman of the Save Felixstowe Hospitals group, said: “I am not surprised at all.

“No-one saw any conflict of interest when Carole Taylor Brown was chairman of Anglia Cancer Network and I am sure the same is felt here.

“In councils the rules are applied far more strictly and this would never be allowed to happen. I just don't think the NHS sees it.”

Should Dr Amanda Jones be playing any part in the contract process? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said: “Dr Jones declared her relationship at every stage and did not vote or influence the process of awarding the tender for sexual health services.

“As NHS Suffolk's public health expert in sexual health, it was necessary for Dr Jones to work on the clinical elements of the proposals both before and after the contract was awarded.

“Her involvement was approved within the PCT and independent auditors are also satisfied that there has been no conflict of interests.

“Since the tender was awarded, she has chaired three meetings to ensure there is clinical involvement on the proposals for the sexual health service redesign. She will continue to support the project in the future to make sure that the service we are offering is the best possible service to patients.”

The NHS bosses from Ipswich Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital, and Suffolk Community Healthcare, have voiced concerns about the manner of the contract negotiations, writing in the letter about “major concerns over the process”.

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