Game Changers – the ‘hot’ new MPs to watch in health

Game Changers – the ‘hot’ new MPs to watch in health

OVID Health started the year by preparing a feature article for the Pharma Times January/February edition on the new MPs in health that we all should be watching.

If you want to see the full list, you can read the article here on the Pharma Times website (it starts on page 29). But to see our MD Jenny Ousbey’s take on the new Parliament, you can read her piece right here


Boris Johnson has promised to deliver a legislative agenda that will “repay” first-time Tory voters who caused Labour’s Red Wall to crumble. Investing in the NHS and social care is one of the key ways Johnson hopes to secure this group’s continued loyalty.

The election brought in a sizeable number of new MPs – 140 in total. That’s a bigger group of MPs than all of the representatives for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland combined.

A number of those, across parties, come with a background in health. Labour MPs with experience in diagnostic virology, oncology pharmacy. New Conservative MPs include doctors and a former pharmaceutical analyst and maths teacher. The new Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson has worked in the pharmaceutical and chemicals industries.

Arguably, a group of new MPs operating in the context of a stonking majority government wield little power over healthcare developments. They don’t have the clout luminaries such as Sir Simon Stevens, Meindert Boysen or Clara Martinez Alberola (who will lead much of the UK negotiations for the EU in 2020) do on the decisions that affect the pharmaceutical industry.

But power can take stranger forms than a crop of new and enthusiastic MPs….

Where does power now lie?

With previous health agitators/influencers in parliament parting ways with voters (Sarah Wollaston, Luciana Berger, etc), it paves the way for others to fill the space.

They will have plenty to get their teeth into. NICE’s methods review consultation, the NHS People Plan, further legislation on NHS structures and mental health care and the oft-promised Innovative Medicines Fund will happen in 2020-21. Add to that the pressures on acute care, demands from patient groups to improve access for patients to personalised and innovative therapies, and you have a heady cocktail of potential ‘influence capital’ for new MPs with experience in pharma, healthcare and life sciences. Not to mention a social care ‘plan’ promised by the Prime Minister for this year.

The select committee elections will be happening in the coming weeks (although have not been formally scheduled yet due to the Cabinet reshuffle). The health and social care committee has been allocated a Conservative chair. There is already a jostling for position amongst Tories with an eye on chair positions on the committee corridor – with rumours abound that former health minister Steve Brine is on manoeuvres and Jeremy Hunt is also vying for the role; Dr Dan Poulter is also keen.

What’s the vision in Number 10?

The political arithmetic could also dictate the direction of travel for policies that will impact how pharma companies operate in the UK. For example, the feted/derided/hated de facto Downing Street head honcho Dominic Cummings penned an article on his blog last year discussing how we should make genomic sequencing free and available to all as the single biggest enabler of preventative health.

He is keen to turn the NHS into a ‘scientific powerhouse’ and sees genomics as the frontier of what can be achieved in terms of large-scale population health interventions. In the same article he pushed for the creation of a Data Science Unit in Downing Street – ‘able to plug into the best researchers around the world, and ensure that policy decisions are taken on the basis of rational thinking and good science or, just as important, everybody is aware that they have to make decisions in the absence of this’.

The big question is whether ‘rational thinking and good science’ will be overtaken by a focus on avoiding the potential cliff-edge Brexit (no deal Brexit is so 2019) at the end of the year, with negotiations between Johnson’s team and that of Ursula von der Leyen’s already playing out in the press.

Not forgetting the impending Cabinet reshuffle in February – where Matt Hancock could very well be moved on. Boris Johnson’s allies have already suggested the Prime Minister is out to “northernise” the Cabinet – a verb we can expect to find in our dictionaries by the end of 2020.

Who are the new kids on the voting bloc?

The incoming cohort with experience and interest in health policy will shape and inform what they do over the next five years – the causes they support, the insights they provide, and the votes they case.

We’ve taken the temperature of the new Parliament and identified the top 10 ‘hot’ new MPs to watch in health. We asked all of these MPs what game-changing policy they would want introduced. Their answers provide some insight into what the hot Parliamentary topics will be over the coming sessions – and what debates will inevitably continue to be played out in the media.

Amy Callaghan was diagnosed with melanoma aged 19 and is the SNP MP who beat Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire. She said: “To deal with the immediate threat to our NHS from the Tories’ after Brexit, the SNP will bring forward the NHS Protection Bill that would protect the NHS across the whole of the UK from ever being harmed by a Tory-Trump trade deal.

“It is only the SNP that has proposed a legal ban on using the NHS in trade talks, and is giving people the double-lock of ensuring that no action can be taken to include the NHS without the permission of any parliament.”

Feryal Clark is the Labour MP for Enfield North and studied bioinformatics at Exeter University. She said: “I would like the NHS to fully fund the general access to Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) across the UK.

“If we are serious about eradicating HIV transmission in England by 2030, with no new infections within the next decade and to become one of the first countries to reach the UN zero infections target by 2030- then we must fully fund PreP across the UK now.”

The Liberal Democrat health and transport spokesperson, MP for Twickenham Munira Wilson is a former corporate affairs lead for the German pharma company Merck. She said: “With 75% of mental health problems established by the age of 25 I believe we must prioritise children and young people’s mental health to ensure we drastically reduce the number of people reaching crisis point with their mental health.

“I will campaign for the Government to introduce further mental health maximum waiting time standards for child and adolescent mental health services and ensure all children and young people with a diagnosable condition receive NHS treatment.”

Conservative MP Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Mons) said: “Specifically in pharmacy I want to see our pharmacists and pharmacy’s delivering much more healthcare to take the pressure off our GPs. Our pharmacists have so much knowledge of their customers and are embedded in the community. Prevention is better than cure!”, while fellow Tory MP Sarah Atherton (Wrexham) expressed her desire to “expand and extend the role of the nurse. An example would be for nurses and paramedicals to be able to administer for example neuro-toxins to offer timely and much needed healthcare to patients, whilst relieving the workload of doctors.”

So, how will our profiled MPs gain cut through and make an impact in the coming months and years? Most crucially, where will they collaborate and share a collective responsibility to influence key policy developments? Our advice is to frame each ‘issue’ with compelling patient-centric stories and data, and to champion their causes in unexpected ways.