A controversial all-Wales NHS contract that was awarded without competition to a company run by an influential Labour Party figure looks set to be extended for another year, even though the firm has been bought by a US health giant.
The original £650,000 contract to provide "additional support to primary care for the many elective care issues GPs have to deal with which has increased significantly during Covid-19" was awarded in April 2020 to Consultant Connect, an Oxford-based company set up in 2015 by Greg Jackson.
Details of the contract were not, however, published until two months later, in June 2020.
Mr Jackson was until November 2019 a director of the online publication LabourList.
Until 2010 he was director of online media strategy for the Labour Party's online tech partner Tangent Labs.
While in that role he developed "the entire online infrastructure for the UK Labour Party".
The purpose of the contract was to allow GPs instant access to medical consultants to discuss patient treatment advice.
On January 8 this year Mr Jackson resigned as a director of Consultant Connect. The company was bought by Teladoc Health UK Ltd, which is owned by the US company Teladoc Health Inc via a pyramid of subsidiaries.
A note to the Financial Statements of Teladoc Health UK Ltd for the year ending December 31 2019 states: "Teladoc Health Inc, a company registered and situated in the US, is the ultimate parent company by virtue of its 100% effective interest in the issued shared capital of Best Doctors Holdings Inc, a company registered and situated in the US. Best Doctors Holdings Inc owns 100% of BD11. BD11 owns 100% of BDS. BDS owns 100% of Teladoc Health UK Ltd."
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We asked the Welsh Government a number of questions:
* How did the contract come to be awarded without a competitive tendering process to a company chaired by an influential former Labour Party official?* Was the Welsh Government made aware of the sale of Consultant Connect to an American-owned company?
* Is the Welsh Government comfortable with the fact that a core function of the NHS has been outsourced to an American-owned company?
* The 12 month contract ran out last week. Have competitive tenders been invited to take the project forward or has an extension been granted to Consultant Connect?
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "We are now in the pre-election period and are limited in how we can respond.
"NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership undertake the procurement processes for Welsh Government and NHS Wales, therefore they may be able to assist."
Later the spokeswoman added that the Welsh Government had not been made aware of the sale of Consultant Connect to Teladoc.
A spokesman for NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership said: "The contract was awarded and approved by the Welsh Government-led Programme Board as a direct award utilising Regulation 32 (2) (c) of the Public Contract Regulations 2015. We are unable to comment on any link between the company and a former Labour Party official."
The spokesman said he was unable to comment on whether the Welsh Government was comfortable with the fact that a core function of the NHS had been outsourced to an American-owned company .
He added: "As an additional comment, there would be examples of other core functions and services which have been outsourced by NHS Wales."
On extending the contract, the spokesman said: "No competitive tenders have been issued at this point. The intention, on instruction from the Welsh Government, and subject to our decision making rules, is to undertake a compliant direct award against an existing framework agreement for an additional 12 month period."
A Plaid Cymru spokesman said: “Transparency at the heart of government is vital for public confidence.
“It’s concerning to hear that the Welsh Government committed to giving a contract to a company without knowing it had changed hands.
“Plaid Cymru believes that Welsh companies should be first in the queue for public contracts to help create jobs and give our economy a much-needed boost.”