5. Dr Sarah Wollaston
Dr Wollaston could never be accused of toeing the party line. As chair of the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, the Conservative MP is in a unique position to influence the Government to prioritise matters of importance to NHS patients and the doctors who care for them – and she uses that position to full effect.
She says that ‘top of the list’ has been ‘the need to increase funding now and in the long term for the NHS, social care and public health’. She adds: ‘Gathering and presenting the evidence to make the case, with others, particularly on funding and workforce has been at the heart of my work.’
In the past year, Dr Wollaston also became chair of the House of Commons Liaison Committee – made up of the chairs of all of the select committees. This is the only group that is able to call on the Prime Minister to give evidence, which it typically does three times a year, allowing Dr Wollaston to ‘raise these issues directly’ with Theresa May.
Dr Wollaston says a personal highlight this year was bringing an amendment to the Data Protection Bill ‘which finally persuaded the Government to stop the sharing of confidential patient addresses of those accused of immigration offences with the Home Office by NHS Digital’.
‘This was in my view a slippery slope and risked the wholly inappropriate sharing of data with other government departments,’ she says.
Dr Wollaston is keen to progress the health committee’s inquiry into prison healthcare and its upcoming inquiry into antimicrobial resistance. She also highlights the committee’s ‘ongoing interest in the impact of Brexit on health’ and says it will ‘continue to press for us to see contingency planning’ in the event of a ‘no-deal Brexit’.
She hopes that others see her ‘as a bit of a nuisance’. ‘It is my job to ask awkward questions and challenge the Government and others on behalf of patients.’
Why influential: Demands answers from the Government on every aspect of health policy
What others say: ‘Fair, understanding and influential’
Random fact: Shocked to find that, at age 56, she has reached the average life expectancy of people in prison