Government picks Tory MP to chair care watchdog


The government is set to appoint a former Conservative party boss and MP to chair the social care and health watchdog.

The Department of Health (DH) said today that David Prior was the government’s “preferred candidate” to chair the Care Quality Commission (CQC), following what it said was an “open and rigorous recruitment exercise”.

Prior, a barrister who spent 10 years in the steel industry and also worked for Lehman Brothers – the US investment bank which collapsed in 2008 and is often blamed for triggering the global financial crisis – currently chairs Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

He served one term as MP for Norfolk North, before losing his seat at the 2001 general election to the Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, now the care services minister.

Prior was also deputy chairman and chief executive of the Conservative Party between 1999 and 2005.

If his appointment is approved by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, following next week’s “scrutiny hearing” by the Commons health select committee, Prior will replace Dame Jo Williams, who faced heavy criticism for her performance as CQC chair during her two years in the post.

Sue Bott, director of development for Disability Rights UK, said: “What is important for the CQC is that it is there for people who use services and in recent times there have been some problems around that.”

But she said there was nothing in Prior’s background to suggest that “he comes with any understanding of that issue”.

She added: “I feel worried about that because it has always been our criticism that service-users are not adequately represented on the CQC board.”

The Department of Health declined to comment on whether it was appropriate to appoint a former Conservative MP and chief executive of the party to chair the CQC.

A DH spokeswoman said: “There isn’t anything additional we can say at this stage because it is not the right time in the process.”

29 November 2012