Friday, May 26, 2006

Dr Chai Patel: big contract for Labour donor

The Ministry of Defence is spending more than £4m a year on private sector mental healthcare for service personnel.

And most of the money is going to the Priory Group, owned by long-time New Labour financial backer – and frustrated House of Lords wannabe – Dr Chai Patel, pictured left.

According to The Independent:

‘Figures revealed yesterday in written answers to the Commons showed that the MoD paid £4.1m in 2004-5 for the treatment of 321 servicemen and women and a further £4.4m for 351 troops in 2005-06.

‘The figures highlight the toll the Iraq war, service in Afghanistan and security operations across the world are exacting on the armed forces.

‘Reservists who have served in Iraq are suffering more mental health problems than their professional comrades-in-arms ... [They] were found to be at 25 times greater risk of having common mental health symptoms and service-related fatigue and 50% more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.’

OK, Priory is the best-known private sector provider of these kinds of services, which famously don't come cheap. Its very name has become a by-word for celebrity decokes.

But isn’t it disquieting when yet another lucrative government contract goes to a major donor of the governing party?

Although Patel has now turned on New Labour, his relations with Britain’s ruling party were only too cordial while all this extra business was coming in.

Fortunately, defence minister Tom Watson is able to reassure us on this point:

‘The Priory Group's tender best met our requirements for high quality in-patient care, without delay and on a regional basis, and they were awarded the contract.

‘Whilst NHS providers did have the opportunity to bid, there were no expressions of interest from the NHS.’

Good. I’m glad no impropriety was involved.

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