Lord Carter, NHS competition tzar under fire

Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the NHS Co-operation and Competition Commission, is under fire for holding the post while also being chair of McKesson UK.

Picking up a story first reported by MD in Private Eye a few weeks back, the Sunday Mail today reports that he holds both posts and suggests there may be a conflict of interests.

The Sunday Mail piece quotes various concerned folks.  Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, is quoted as saying: “He cannot have any credibility when he is also heading a company with such huge interests in the very contracts his organisation is meant to police. GPs are being minutely scrutinised for possible conflicts of interest. But if we are going to have to have transparency it has to apply throughout the system.”

While Lord Carter may be an excellent chairman the obvious question is why nobody at DH wondered whether appointing the chairman of a major supplier to the NHS – clinical IT and outsourced back office HR and payroll services – to such a sensitive post might not at least be perceived by some as contentious.

Given the central role that competition is to have in the planned future NHS, it would surely make sense to have the main regulator seen as entirely impartial. Unfortunately, it seems a pretty cack-handed way to set up the running of such a key quango.

The Mail on Sunday article describes McKesson as an £80 billion a year health firm – but neglects to say the vast bulk of this cones from the vastly larger US parent firm’s business in the pharmacy wholesale market.

The £799,000 earned by Lord Carter as chairman of McKesson UK is absolutely tiny compared to the $120m odd earned by McKesson’s US boss last year. A truly staggering sum that made him highest earner in US healthcare industry.


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