Patient groups and campaigners have questioned the suitability of George Greener as chair of London strategic health authority.

Patient groups and campaigners have questioned the suitability of George Greener as chair of London strategic health authority.

Mr Greener was appointed in May but patients' groups that have researched his employment history reveal that he has worked in senior roles for confectionery, tobacco, pharmaceutical and drinks industries.

Mr Greener, 60, who trained as a research chemist, received a CBE this year for his work as chair of British Waterways until his retirement in 2005.

He spent 20 years working for confectionary giant Mars, five as managing director of Mars UK. From 1991-98 he held a number of chief executive posts at financial services subsidiaries of BAT (British American Tobacco) Industries plc, becoming group chief executive of BAT financial services and a board member of its parent tobacco company. He also chaired the Big Food Group, previously known as the supermarket chain Iceland.

Mr Greener is chair of Kellen Investments Ltd, which owns Sutton and East Surrey Water - one of the first water companies this summer to take out a drought order - and is owned by Terra Firma Capital Partners, which owns a number of pub chains and drinks retailers.

Until May, he was also director of Reckitt Benckiser plc, a domestic cleaning company which also produces several consumer pharmaceuticals and last year bought Boots' over-the-counter division.

Malcolm Alexander, chief officer of the London Ambulance Service patient forum, was 'appalled' by Mr Greener's CV. He told HSJ: 'The appointment of Mr Greener as chair confirms the government's commitment to destroying the NHS. He has no experience of running health services. He has worked for British American Tobacco and Mars ? just the credentials to tackle London's major health issues.

'His other appointments with JP Morgan American Investment Trust, Kellen Investments, The British Waterways Board and Swallow Hotels suggest he has the corporate business experience the health secretary is looking for as she creates a so-called patient-led health service to replace the NHS.'

Geoff Martin, campaigns director for pressure group the London Health Emergency, said: 'It's a shoddy system that thinks a person with a track record like this is an appropriate figure for the health service in London. What a CV for this job. Mars and BAT have if anything contributed more to the ill-health of London than anything positive. This appointment goes to the heart of the Blair agenda that says, whatever it is responsible for, big business knows best.'

NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon said Mr Greener had an 'interesting CV'. But he added: 'I don't think his past should taint his future. It would be important for him to prove to the SHA and the PCTs in London that he can put his business experience to good effect. It might be seen as a negative but it could be positive in terms of harnessing his experience for the NHS. But he has to prove himself.'

NHS Consultants Association president Dr Peter Fisher said: 'It would be nice to think such a person would have a background in health or an appropriate profession. It's not a terribly impressive background.'

The Appointments Commission on Mr Greener

Commission chair Roger Moore would not comment on Mr Greener's CV. He said: 'George Greener was appointed after a competitive process in line with the NHS Appointments Commission procedures, which themselves follow the code of conduct for public appointments. Mr Greener was found to be the strongest candidate and met in full the requirements set out in the job description and appointment process.

'The commission has every confidence in his abilities.'

Mr Greener was not available for comment, and a spokesman for London strategic health authority would only say that the 'suitability of appointments' was a matter for the commission.