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Parliamentary shuffle

A look at the leading health MPs: who's coming, who's going and what might this mean to pharma?

The UK Houses of ParliamentThis General Election is likely to see the largest change in MPs since 1945, helped in large part by the record number of those who are retiring (over 140 MPs, or more than 20 per cent). Regardless of the outcome, a hung parliament or narrow majority for whichever party will bring significant changes and the transfer of seats from Labour to the Conservatives.

Industry has worked hard to develop relationships and understanding with current MPs, including a small number with particular health interests. A considerable amount of this will be lost in May and the pressure will be on to connect with new MPs and grow their understanding of industry and disease area issues. This is a priority because of the imminent pressures on industry and the NHS, because competing voices will be proactive in their communication to new MPs, and because Parliament's influence should grow after the election.

Labour's large Parliamentary majorities mean it has pushed through its business with little fear of defeat. As a result, industry activity with MPs has more often focused on awareness raising rather than actual policy decision making. All this could change. A narrow majority will mean more power for Parliament in policy as ministers will need to be more responsive to individual MP's concerns.

There are immediate issues on which industry needs to engage new MPs. The financial pressure on the NHS means the case for the value of medicines must be made afresh. Locally and nationally, the NHS believes that the medicines budget is ripe for savings, seemingly without regard for the recent PPRS price cuts and government support for industry through the Office for Life Sciences. Despite recent reviews, NICE remains largely untouched as a significant hurdle to market access. What's more, if the Conservatives win, industry will face a new value-based pricing reimbursement structure.

Others will also be communicating with MPs. For example, one can expect that NICE will brief new MPs on its view of HTA and industry will want to balance this with its own perspective.

In the event that the Conservatives are elected with an overall majority, over half the parliamentary party will be elected for the first time. This new intake could have a major impact on the decisions of the new government. A publication by hanover reviewing Conservative candidates shows that there is likely to be a strong group of new MPs with health expertise. They are inheriting safe seats from retiring MPs, or fighting seats that require only small swings – swings that should be achievable even with narrow polls.

They will be among the leading voices on healthcare and life sciences, and influential players in the development of healthcare policy in Parliament. They may even, in time, find themselves serving as Ministers in the Department of Public Health, as the Conservatives would rename the DH.


Dr Phillip Lee
Dr Phillip Lee

Dr Phillip Lee
Thames Valley GP and former doctor at Stoke Mandeville hospital, Dr Lee will inherit the safe seat of Bracknell. He has called for more MPs with a scientific background, and believes that until the public "take ownership of their own individual health and play an active role in determining the health services offered locally, the health of the nation will not improve".

George Freeman
George Freeman

George Freeman
Set to become Conservative MP for rural Mid Norfolk, George is a former director of a venture capital company and as a founder of Merlin Biosciences in the 1990s, he was involved in the formation and funding of UK biotech start-ups. In 2003 he set up a biomedical ventures and experimental medicines consultancy.

Mark Coote
Mark Coote

Mark Coote
With a passion for the NHS after his life was saved from a rare illness in his twenties, Mark has worked recently as an associate director at Cancer Research UK. If he wins Cheltenham his priorities include improving access to treatments and cancer outcomes.

Maggie Throup
Maggie Throup

Maggie Throup
With a degree in Biology and qualifications in biomedical sciences and marketing, Maggie began her career as a medical laboratory scientist in the NHS before joining Nycomed (UK) in sales and marketing. She now runs her own consultancy and is standing in Solihull where she is a vocal campaigner on local NHS services.

Margo James
Margot James

Margot James
Co-founder of pharma PR company Shire Health, Margot is contesting the Midlands marginal of Stourbridge. She has been a board member of Parkside NHS Trust and Older People's Champion on Kensington & Chelsea council. Margot is also a vice chairman of the Conservative Party.

Penny Mordaunt
A former Diabetes UK director, Penny helped to develop provision of services through improved diagnosis and access. She has a strong interest in the care of the elderly, and worked to bring together charities from the sector to help the Conservatives develop new policy. If successful she would win Portsmouth North from Labour.

Dr Sarah Wollaston
This local Devon GP was tempted to run because "the health service is under-represented in Parliament". A former trainer of GPs and medical students and forensic medical examiner for the police, she is particularly concerned about "the devastating effects of binge-drinking and alcohol-related crime".

Dr Daniel Poulter
Dr Poulter specialises in obstetrics, gynaecology and women's health. He is selected for the safe seat of Central Suffolk & Ipswich North. A one-time aide to Tory health spokesperson Anne Milton MP, his other interests include mental illness.

Helen Grant
The daughter of a surgeon and a nurse, and sister to a doctor and a nurse, Helen is a former non-executive director of Croydon PCT and founder member of a local group campaigning to save NHS services in Maidstone, the safe seat she inherits from Anne Widdecombe. 


Selected health-interested MPs retiring at the election

Former Health Committee members:
Dr Howard Stoate
Dr Doug Naysmith
John Austin

Former Science & Technology Committee members:
Dr Brian Iddon
Dr Des Turner
Phil Willis

Former Health ministers:
Alan Milburn
Patricia Hewitt
John Reid
John Hutton
Jane Kennedy

Former Science ministers:
Ian Taylor
John Battle

Former Health spokespeople:
Ann Widdecombe
John Maples
Michael Jack

Other heath issue campaigners:
Neil Gerrard
Chris McCafferty
Tim Boswell
David Maclean
Angela Browning

Already retired:
Dr Ian Gibson

Health Ministers potentially vulnerable to defeat:
Phil Hope
Ann Keen
Gillian Merron
Mike O'Brien


The Author
Andrew Harrison is director at Hanover Communications

This article is based on the hanover publication Who's who in health: the 2010 Conservative Intake

To comment on this article, email

14th April 2010


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