Home Technology Why new health ministers are crucial in delivering for medical technology

Why new health ministers are crucial in delivering for medical technology

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Chris Whitehouse, a political consultant and expert on medical technology policy and regulation at Whitehouse Communications, chair of the Urology Trade Association, fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and trustee of the Institute of Medical Ethics, updates on a series of senior appointments and policy changes happening despite the summer holidays.

In September, Thérèse Coffey, a close ally of the new prime minister, was appointed health secretary and deputy prime minister. Since then, five new ministers have been given responsibility for health and social care in England, with exact ministerial portfolios expected to be assigned in the coming days. All six health ministers differ from that of the previous administration’s health team, which was headed up by Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid and for a short period, Steve Barclay.

But perhaps the most interesting appointment to Coffey’s team, is Nick Markham CBE, the co-founder of a COVID-19 testing firm Cignpost Diagnostics. Given his record as a business innovator in the healthcare space, combined with his experience across the public, private and voluntary sectors, there are reasons to be optimistic that the UK’s medtech sector is in safe hands. 

Previously, Markham was the lead non-executive director (NED) for the Department for Work and Pensions, and was also the deputy leader of Westminster Council and lead NED for the now disbanded Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.Markham is also a founder of Safe Haven, a social enterprise charity that provides homes for the homeless in London after raising £33 million through an innovative funding model which effectively “securitises housing benefit” thereby requiring no government grants or donations. He has extensive private sector experience, having been ITV strategy director, where he developed the concept of Freeview with the BBC and was in charge of the Carlton and Granada merger. 

Despite exact ministerial responsibility not yet being confirmed, we know that Markham will take over from Lord Kamall, who was the Government’s health and social care spokesperson in the House of Lords, who has now been appointed a junior minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Kamall was the minister responsible for technology, innovation, and life sciences, and it is likely that Markham will take on a similar brief once he is conferred with a Life Peerage. 

With the new Medical Technologies Directorate’s new director David Lawson shortly beginning his role of driving innovation to improve clinical outcomes in the medtech Sector, he will hopefully benefit from working closely with a new minister that has first-hand experience in the sector. Below is a list of those who have been appointed as ministers at the Department for Health and Social Care:

  • Thérèse Coffey – secretary of state: Previously work and pensions secretary, Coffey has committed to putting “our health on a firm footing”, having published ‘Our Plan for Patients’, prioritising ambulances, backlogs, care and doctors/dentists.
  • Robert Jenrick – minister of state: Previous roles include: housing secretary, Jul 2019 – Sep 2021; and exchequer secretary to the treasury, Jan 2018 – July 2019. A qualified solicitor, Jenrick has also held several senior financial roles at Christie’s, the art business.
  • Will Quince – minister of state: Previous roles include: minister for school standards, Jul 2022 – Sep 2022; minister for children and families, Sep 2021 – Jul 2022; and minister for welfare delivery, Apr 2019 – Sep 2021. 
  • Dr Caroline Johnson – parliamentary under secretary of state: Her first ministerial role since being elected in 2016, Johnson is a qualified consultant paediatrician who continues to work part time at Peterborough City Hospital. 
  • Neil O’Brien – parliamentary under secretary of state: Previously minister for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution, Sep 2021 – Jul 2022. Prior to being elected in 2017, O’Brien was a special adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May on the economy and industrial strategy, and was also a special adviser to the chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne between 2012 and 2016. 

Beyond the Department for Health and Social Care, the medtech sector should be monitoring closely for the appointments in other departments, notably the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). As secretary of state, Jacob Rees-Mogg has an important role to play in ensuring that the UK remains at the leading edge of science, research and innovation, and we will be keeping a close eye on which of the five ministers in his team will have life sciences and innovation in their portfolio. 

Questions about or comments upon this article can be addressed to the author at chris.whitehouse@whitehousecomms.com.



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