Published: 12/08/2004, Volume II4, No. 5918 Page 6

Private provider Alliance Medical has dismissed as 'nonsense' press reports that the NHS MRI contract it won in June was a result of government 'cronyism'.

Former health secretary Alan Milburn was appointed to Alliance Medical parent company Bridgepoint Capital's advisory committee in January this year.

The Cabinet Office advisory committee on business appointments ruled in February that Mr Milburn was free to take up the post immediately, but banned him from any 'personal lobbying of government ministers or officials' until June 2004 - one year after resigning as secretary of state.

Press reports alleged that Alliance Medical won a five-year NHS mobile scanning equipment and services contract as a result of Mr Milburn's close friendship with health minister John Hutton.

A spokesman for Alliance Medical said it won the 'very competitive' tender process based on its 15 years' experience of using 'the very best technology' and recruiting and retaining the 'largest MRI radiography workforce outside the NHS'.

'The idea that deals are done on a handshake is a joke, ' he added, saying that Mr Milburn would not have been appointed as a consultant if he or the company 'thought there might be a risk of this happening'.