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'Dr Dan' handed government nursing brief


Responsibility for nursing policy at the Department of Health has been given to a hospital doctor, following the government’s ministerial reshuffle.

Dr Daniel Poulter was brought into the DH two week’s ago as part of the prime minister’s virtual clean sweep of his health ministers, which saw Jeremy Hunt replace Andrew Lansley as health secretary.

The DH confirmed today that he will take on the nursing policy brief held until last week by former nurse Anne Milton and before that former district nurse Ann Keen.

He will be responsible for maternity services, nursing and midwifery, health visiting, professional regulation, education and training.

He will also lead on NHS workforce issues, including pay and pensions, and patient safety, including the government’s response to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry report, which is due later this autumn.

Dr Poulter, whose website frequently refers to him as “Dr Dan”, is the Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.

He was elected in May 2010, having previously worked as an NHS hospital doctor specialising primarily in obstetrics, gynaecology and women’s health.

Last year he spoke out against proposals from fellow Tory Nadine Dorries to transfer abortion counselling services away from termination providers, such as Marie Stopes, and hand them to anti- abortion groups such as Life.

According to his website, Dr Poulter continues to practise as an NHS doctor “on a part-time basis in order to keep in touch with the real world and the problems and concerns of the people of Suffolk”.

It adds that he “has previously helped to set up medical and lifestyle advice clinics for the homeless and people with drug and alcohol misuse problems”.

Prior to his appointment, Dr Poulter was member of the influential Commons’ health select committee, which polices government healthcare policy.

However, despite his impressive health credentials, influential voices in nursing have already questioned whether a member of the medical profession is the best candidate to oversee nursing policy.

A senior nurse close to the formulation of health policy, told Nursing Times: “As an ex-nurse I don’t think it sends out the right message having a doctor there as minister for nursing.

“We have been fighting hard to make sure nurses are getting represented adequately in the NHS at organisations like clinical commissioning groups, for example, and this would not be a good step to take.”

Speaking on his promotion last Tuesday, Dr Poulter said: “It is an honour and a privilege to be offered this role.

“I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to bring my frontline experience as an NHS doctor to my new role and am looking forward to working to address some of the major health challenges facing this country.”

The other new faces in the government health team are Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, and Anna Soubry, Tory MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire.

The only survivor from Mr Lansley’s team is Earl Howe, the government’s health representative in the House of Lords.


Readers' comments (27)

  • Surely it's best that nurses should be represented by nurses.

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  • looks like another slap in the face for the profession and will help to demean it even further

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  • HILARIOUS appointment what will they think of next -perhaps sewage workers to oversee HIV clinics-yes that is how ridiculous it is!!

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  • "“I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to bring my frontline experience as an NHS doctor to my new role and am looking forward to working to address some of the major health challenges facing this country.”"

    could have read instead 'I am delighted to work ... and am looking forward to working alongside nurses to address....etc'

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  • Why can't a nurse represent nursing?

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  • tinkerbell

    one step backwards to being doctors handmaidens perhaps. would a nurse ever be considered to overview doctors in DH? Nurses are being sidelined, squeezed out of the equation because they will be cheap labour in the future probably and few of em as healthcare workers pick up the room made for less qualified staff, which is already happening on the wards now.

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  • Less qualified staff on the wards will surely put more strain and responsibility on medical staff and they will find themselves doing more of the specialist nursing work. no?

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 17-Sep-2012 1:46 pm

    yes, we're going backwards, round and round in ever decreasing circles. The professional status that education sought to achieve is being eroded.

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  • Desperate Dan?
    Obviously the govt is concerned that nurses have demonstrated they provide care as good as doctors at a lower cost. In addition they are more consistent in following the service protocols, policies and guidelines in my experience.
    GPs didn't have enough to do so they gave them commissioning (practice nurses doing the QOF collection consultations).

    Slightly tongue in cheek but I agree with others that a nurse would be preferable for this remit, or to organise the cabinet for healthcare/patients rather than dividing the professions.

    Most of us have worked as part of a multidisciplinary team for many years now with roles and responsibilities based round the patient needs and staff skills, not what course they did at university. Lets hope his first job is to abolish the NMC and GMC, both of which seem eminently bad at protecting patients but quite effective at costing practitioners huge sums of money. The Electronic Staff Register should be all that is needed. After all the Police have one Criminal Records Bureau not seperate registers for theives, murderers, road traffic offenders etc. Makes searching and tracking people who move from one "profession" to another easier.

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  • those matey visits Cameron did round the wards to talk to nurses have had no effect at all. he appears to have no respect for the profession and the work they do at all and has no clue. with all due respect, his experience of nursing is the support he received from them for his son and when his daughter was born. that is not the same as working with patients on the wards. it is just limited observation from a personal layman's perspective. He was just patronising them.

    if nursing is to be effective its practitioners must be treated on an equal footing with other hc professionals and they have to lead their own profession.

    how can a doctor decide on nursing policy any more than a nurse can on theirs. they can only work collaboratively together to do this which would be the best way in the interests of patients and the running of the services, or failing this, each look after their own which would be less than satisfactory.

    my hospital suddenly handed over nursing policy making to administrative managers and if it wasn't for our hard work and trebled workload the services would have all but collapsed as nurses on the wards had not been consulted and without guidance from management for a total reorganisation their plans were totally unworkable. They had no nursing experience and had no clue of what patient care involves just like Cameron. Better left to the experts who work daily in the field.

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