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Former nurse leaves government role over Brexit deal

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One of the most influential MPs with a nursing background has quit the government in protest at the prime minister’s stance on Brexit.

Former oncology nurse Maria Caulfield resigned from her job as vice chair for women saying she opposed Theresa May’s latest Brexit plan worked out at Chequers. She was one of nine chairs who were appointed to the government in January’s reshuffle.

“This policy will be bad for our country and bad for the party”

Maria Caulfield

Ms Caulfield, who is the MP for Lewes in East Sussex, voted Leave in the European Union referendum.

Speaking on the latest Brexit plan agreed by the cabinet at Chequers last week, she said: “This policy will be bad for our country and bad for the party.”

In June 2016 she wrote an opinion piece for Nursing Times urging nurses to vote for Brexit. “As a nurse with 20 years’ experience in the NHS, I know just what a vital contribution overseas staff make,” she said.

“Some people have claimed the health service will face a staffing crisis if we vote to leave on June 23rd,” she said. “But it is absurd to suggest the UK would turn away much-needed doctors and nurses.”

According to her constituency website, Ms Caulfield became an NHS nurse after leaving school. She later specialised in cancer treatment becoming a senior sister at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

She was elected to parliament in May 2015, defeating the Liberal Democrat’s Norman Baker who had been the sitting MP since 1997.

On being elected, she said: “I would like to thank the Conservative Party for choosing a working class nurse like myself for this seat because very often you hear about politicians not being from the real world and I certainly am.”

She was re-elected at the general election last year with an increased majority of 5,508.

There are four other former nurses working as MPs.


Anne Milton

Anne Milton, Conservative MP for Guildford since 2005, was made an education minster in June 2017 but has also previously been a health minister. Ms Milton trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.

She worked for the NHS for 25 years as a district nurse and for people requiring palliative care. Between 2010 and 2012, she served in the coalition government as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health.

Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire since 2005, was a nurse at Warrington Hospital and the Royal Liverpool Teaching Hospital during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Smith, elected Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West in June 2017, is a former theatre nurse at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

She was also the first black woman to hold the post of Unison president from June 2011 to June 2012.

In addition, Karen Lee, who was elected Labour MP for Lincoln and a shadow minister for fire in June 2017, used to be a nurse at Lincoln County Hospital.

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