LABOUR MP David Hinchliffe has attacked the Government's use of the private sector to supplement the National Health Service.
The Wakefield MP, who chairs the Commons Health Select Committee, told the Commons it had been estimated that using the private sector cost the NHS 43% more per item.
He said a consultant told him he was "embarrassed" at the amount of money the Government spent treating his NHS patients privately.
Mr Hinchliffe asked Health Secretary Dr John Reid: "How can you justify the amount of money we are paying some consultants?
"If these consultants weren't working in the private sector they could actually be doing more hours treating NHS patients in the NHS."
In reply, Dr Reid defended the policy and said it would not increase costs.
He added that the NHS was buying 250,000 cataract operations, which would result in a huge reduction in patients' waiting times.
"The price at which I'm purchasing it is not 40% above the NHS tariff. It's 10% below the NHS tariff," said Dr Reid.