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.