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CQC Chair steps down to become health minister

The Care Quality Commission chairman David Prior has stepped down to become a health minister.

In the latest round of appointments, the former Tory MP is among peerages announced for six people who will take ministerial posts in the Government.

In a statement on the Government’s website, it was announced that Francis Maude, Ros Altmann, George Bridges, Andrew Dunlop, Jim O’Neill and David Prior would be appointed to the House of Lords.

Until 2001, David Prior was the Conservative MP for North Norfolk but Norman Lamb overturned his slender majority of 1,293, to take what was previously regarded as a safe Tory seat and he has held it ever since. Mr Prior was also acting chairman of the Conservative Party at the time.

Mr Prior then went on to become chairman of the PFI-funded Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in 2002 and steered it from a new hospital into one which gained a reputation for good quality care.

During his years as MP in North Norfolk, Mr Lamb made health one of his priorities and made no secret of his personal association with mental health, recently speaking openly about the issues and difficulties his son and family faced in dealing with mental health issues.

As Care Minister, he was a driving force in the Department of Health ensuring mental health issues received better funding and remained high on the political agenda.

Mr Prior, who had been CQC chairman since January 2013 takes up his role as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health with immediate effect. Further details about his role and responsibilities have yet to be confirmed by the government.

In a statement, the CQC confirmed Mr Prior’s appointment and that he had, with immediate effect, stepped aside from his role as Chair of CQC.  

Mr Prior said: “I am enormously excited about this new appointment. However it is a bitter-sweet moment for me because I have loved working at CQC for the last two and a half years. It has been a great privilege to work with so many talented staff who are committed to improving the lives of people who use health and care services.”

He said that he believed the new regulatory model developed under the CQC would go beyond identifying poor care by stimulating and encouraging services to improve.
He praised David Behan as an exceptional CQC Chief Executive, and was confident he would ensure the organisation “continues to build on the progress already made.”

In turn, Mr Behan said Mr Prior would be a “fantastic addition to the ministerial team.”
“The news of his appointment is, however, tinged with sadness as it means that we will be losing a fantastic chair, whose direction and challenge has helped CQC to make huge strides in delivering real benefits for people who use services,” he said.

The search for Mr Prior’s permanent replacement will begin immediately. In the meantime CQC Board member Michael Mire will Chair next week’s CQC Board meeting.

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