The Department of Health is 'constantly' checking for conflicts of interests arising for firms such as McKinsey hired to give the government advice, MPs heard last week.
As part of the health select committee's annual inquiry into NHS expenditure, Labour MP Doug Naysmith said he was concerned that there was a potential for a conflict of interest between McKinsey's role as an adviser to government and its bid to be included on the DoH's list of approved commissioning support suppliers.
NHS chief executive David Nicholson said that he had worked with the company before and had been impressed with its contribution.
'I've always found the firm to be very good value for money and they have some extraordinarily talented people there,' he said.
Pressed further on whether there might be a conflict of interest between McKinsey's involvement in setting the parameters of contracts with the private sector and actually bidding for those contracts at a later date, DoH permanent secretary Hugh Taylor sought to reassure the committee.
'We are constantly reflecting on whether a conflict of interest arises for firms acting as advisers to the DoH, not just McKinsey but across the board,' said Mr Taylor.
'Where a firm is advising on setting contracts for the private sector and then is one of the candidates in the bidding process, we are continually aware that there is a potential for a conflict of interest and we monitor that.'
The committee exchange follows the disclosure in HSJ that McKinsey was paid to carry out a study by the DoH last year to assess how a market could be created in commissioning services, and that in doing so it sought advice from companies that it is now bidding against (news, page 5, 5 October).
Several of the companies which were consulted by McKinsey have questioned the ethics of allowing it to enter the bidding process.