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BMA opposes appointment of former Tory health minister as NHS chair

The BMA Council has voted to oppose the appointment of a recent former Conservative health minister as NHS England chair.

Lord Prior, who is due to take over from Professor Sir Malcolm Grant this autumn, gave in to pressure from the House of Commons Health Committee to resign his role as a Tory party whip last week.

But the BMA said in a letter to health committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston that this decision ‘does not alleviate the concerns expressed by BMA Council’.

The letter, from BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: ‘Council is particularly concerned about the recent role Lord Prior held as a health minister in David Cameron’s Government and his recorded views on the NHS, and the potential this background may have to create unintended bias in his decision making in the role.’

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The health select committee has said it is ‘satisfied that Lord Prior has the professional competence and experience required of the chair of NHS England’, as long as he resigned the Tory whip. 

But Dr Nagpaul’s letter said that ‘where significant political affiliation and recorded views have been declared as part of the application process then it is only right and proper that the post holder should be subjected to the necessary scrutiny to ensure that this previous affiliation does not impact unduly on their public office’.

Dr Nagpaul concluded: ‘I would therefore ask the committee as part of its ongoing scrutiny of the role and activities of the chair of NHS England, to consider the view of BMA Council on the appointment of Lord Prior.’

Lord Prior, who served as a minister under former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, is due to become only the second chair of NHS England when he takes over the post which Sir Malcolm has held since 2013.