Academic calls for withdrawal of health committee criticism

June 21, 2002

The academic at the centre of an increasingly personalised debate on the role of private finance in the National Health Service has rebutted criticisms from a committee of MPs.

Allyson Pollock, head of the Health Policy and Health Services Research Unit at University College London, has called for paragraphs criticising the unit to be withdrawn from the House of Commons select committee on health's report on the role of the private sector in the NHS.

In a letter to David Hinchliffe, chair of the committee, she wrote: "The damaging remarks are based on an inaccurate account of the committee's own proceedings and of our research."

Nineteen academics have written to The Daily Telegraph in support of Professor Pollock. They say the committee's criticisms are "an unacceptable use of parliamentary privilege to attack academic scholarship".

The paragraphs criticising the unit were included against the wishes of the chairman. The unit, whose work includes peer-reviewed papers analysing the effect of the private finance initiative on the NHS, issued a rebuttal of the criticisms.

But Labour MP Julia Drown rejected suggestions that she and other committee members were seeking to crush debate.

"This is not about stopping an academic criticising the government - this is about encouraging a better quality of debate, one that shows a stronger understanding of the technical arguments."

The committee accused the unit of confusing criticism of capital charges with criticism of PFI and said the unit's claims that there had been no checks against value-for-money tests were "untrue".

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