The NHS England chair has refuted suggestions that he uses private healthcare, saying he is registered with an NHS GP and does not have health insurance.

Sir Malcolm Grant said media claims he used non-NHS healthcare were incorrect. They were sparked by his comment made in autumn 2011 that he was “not a patient of the NHS”, which has never been clarified.

He said: “I’m very fortunate I have no health conditions, and I never see a doctor because I’m married to one.

“But I’m not on private insurance − absolutely not. I’m registered with a practice. I’m totally wedded to the NHS.”

Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm said he was not concerned about health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s hands-on approach to the NHS. Mr Hunt has been holding weekly meetings with national system leaders on what they should do about local NHS organisations’ performance, and last month personally phoned chief executives of hospitals which had not met targets.

Asked if it was consistent with the NHS’s “operational independence” under the government’s health reforms, Sir Malcolm said NHS England’s independence was subject to the condition that “the secretary of state has the concurrent responsibility for promoting a comprehensive health service in England”.

“So there is concurrency between us. I see that as meaning that the health secretary has the political leadership and accountability. He has to respond in the Commons and he can’t do that simply by saying, ‘I’ve given all this to NHS England’.

“There is such political salience that it’s pragmatic politics for him to be in this position. I welcome an activist secretary of state – I couldn’t imagine [one] who had no interest in healthcare.

“He and I and our senior team at NHS England have found ways of working. I wouldn’t say it’s always an easy relationship. At times it tests both sides. But both sides are behaving pretty professionally to make sure it works well.”

 

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