Central Suffolk/North Ipswich: MP’s meeting ‘snub’ denied

Forced to cut short appearance in union-sponsored debate

Suffolk MP and junior Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter was forced to curtail a speech at a trade union-sponsored conference yesterday to rush back to London to take part in a Labour-sponsored debate.

The Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP had agreed to travel to Brighton to speak to the annual conference of the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA) – part of the Unite trade union.

But he had to make a hasty return to the capital after the Labour Party called a debate on proposals to introduce regional pay in the NHS.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said Dr Poulter’s speech “said nothing to allay their concerns about the future of the NHS which is currently being privatised for the benefit of private healthcare companies”. He said he was also unhappy he did not answer any further questions.

However, an angry spokeswoman for the Department of Health insisted that Dr Poulter had gone out of his way to make the meeting.

She said it had originally been scheduled weeks before the emergency debate had been called.

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When the clash became apparent he had contacted the CPHVA but they had said they would welcome his contribution even if it had to be shortened because of his need to return to London.

His train from London to Brighton was seriously delayed, which meant he had to cut the speech further before returning to the House of Commons for the debate.

In the House of Commons, Labour urged the Government to take action to stop regional pay entering the NHS “via the back door”.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham insisted regional pay would fundamentally undermine the National Health Service.

Mr Burnham told MPs that growing numbers of NHS trusts across England were seeking to follow the lead of trusts in the South West and break from the national Agenda for Change system. He said that unchecked, this would lead to “fragmentation” of the NHS.

However, the opposition motion was defeated in a House of Commons division.

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