As chair of the House of Commons health committee, the former Tory health secretary has been a nagging thorn in the side of Andrew Lansley, popping up at regular intervals to cast doubt on, and so undermine, the health secretary's grand vision for the NHS.
He has been sceptical about the reforms, but not enough to torpedo them. He believes the health act is ‘merely a footnote' compared with the efficiency challenge facing the NHS, which is where he believes energies should have been focused. But he has accepted the case for managerial change.
Still tipped in some circles to succeed Mr Lansley if the Prime Minister decides to reshuffle his cabinet, he remains a respected and weighty voice on health policy.