KEN Livingstone, the Labour candidate to be Mayor of London and a noted opponent of NHS privatisation, uses private healthcare services, City A.M. has learned.

A spokesperson for the 66-year-old Livingstone said he uses an “external provider” for annual check-ups, in an admission that is sure to lead to accusations of hypocrisy.

“Like many people he has an annual check up from an external provider – if he ever needs to see a doctor for anything it is with his local GP, or with other NHS services,” a spokesperson told City A.M. last night.

At a lunch with political reporters in Westminster earlier this week, Livingstone said he had been having an annual check up for “ten years”, adding “I’m as fit as I’ve ever been”.

He added: “I’ve lost a stone on this campaign. I went for my annual medical and the doctor almost had an orgasm because I’m so fit. My heart, liver and kidneys, the whole lot are absolutely amazing.”

Private check-ups generally cost anything from several hundred pounds to several thousand, although it is not known how much Livingstone’s annual appointments cost.

In a post for the Labour party’s Save London’s NHS petition earlier this year, Livingstone said: “The people of our capital city deserve top quality care and demand our health care should not be broken up, sold off or be privatised by the back door.”

The admission comes just weeks after Livingstone was widely criticised for channeling his income through a company to reduce his tax bills, despite describing people who use these kind of legal tax planning measures as “rich bastards”.

A spokesperson for Boris Johnson, Livingstone’s Tory opponent and the incumbent Mayor, said:

“This is yet another example of Ken Livingstone’s hypocrisy – saying one thing but does another. First we discover that at the same time as attacking tax avoiders, saying they shouldn’t be allowed to vote in elections, he is avoiding tax himself and standing in an election. Now we learn that while campaigning as a defender of the NHS he uses private healthcare. How can Londoners believe anything this man says?”