24 for 24, volume 2: who are the key health advocates stepping down from politics?

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With today (30 May) officially marking the end of the current Parliament, the 130+ MPs standing down at the General Election will now have completed their final duties in Westminster. In follow-up to our shortlist of 24 prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) to watch, Incisive Health would like to bid farewell and convey our thanks (!) to the 24 most prominent health campaigners, advocates and ministers – who won’t be around come 4 July, but leave behind a lasting legacy on health.


  1. Sir Paul Beresford, Conservative, Mole Valley: Veteran MP Sir Paul has practised as an NHS dentist throughout his 32 years in Parliament. While active on a range of health issues including antibiotics, skin and stem cell research, his advocacy has naturally focused on dentistry and oral health issues – from child tooth decay and dental deserts, to head and neck cancer.

  2. Steve Brine, Conservative, Winchester: From PPS to then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, to Minister for Public Health and Primary Care between 2017 and 2019 and Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee – Brine's career has long prioritised health. Brine reflected on his record during his final speech as an MP, including his role in establishing what would become Pharmacy First and extending HPV vaccination to boys.

  3. Lyn Brown, Labour, West Ham: A former social worker who entered Parliament in 2005, Brown has been a longstanding advocate for women's health in Parliament – campaigning for a decade to end painful hysteroscopy trauma. She has spoken of her own experience of inflammatory arthritis, highlighting the importance of medical research so that the UK "can continue to pioneer treatments for arthritis and other ailments".

  4. Karen Buck, Labour, Westminster North: Buck began working for the Labour Party as a health directorate researcher, having previously worked in a charity supporting disabled people and as a public health officer – issues she continued to champion throughout her parliamentary career. Tributes to Buck's legacy were led by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who praised her rare "combination of expertise and empathy".

  5. Jo Churchill, Conservative, Bury St Edmonds: Churchill served as Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care for just over two years, overseeing public health services during the peak of the pandemic. Having survived diagnoses of both thyroid and breast cancer, Churchill has used her political career to campaign for improved cancer outcomes, arguing that "receiving good treatment shouldn't be about luck".

  6. Greg Clark, Conservative, Tunbridge Wells: Clark has held a plethora of ministerial positions since his election to Parliament, spending most of his time at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy where he served as Secretary of State between 2016 and 2019, launching the Life Sciences Sector Deal. Outside of Government, Clark has chaired the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee and campaigned on issues including Alzheimer's, mental health and sickle cell disease.

  7. Dame Tracey Crouch, Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford: Having received a breast cancer diagnosis herself in 2020, Dame Tracey has been a vocal advocate for breast cancer, from chairing the APPG on Breast Cancer to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Breast Cancer Kent. The world's first Minister for Loneliness described her diagnosis and recovery as "an opportunity to pause and reflect on my own personal priorities... it is time to seek a new professional challenge."

  8. Alex Cunningham, Labour, Stockton North: Cunningham has proven a successful campaigner for health services in his constituency, from securing £1 million in funding for dentists in Stockton to overturning plans to downgrade North Tees Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department. At the national level, Cunningham has been a vocal advocate for the "smoke-free generation", calling for action on smoking to tackle health inequalities.

  9. Colleen Fletcher, Labour, Coventry North East: Fletcher campaigned on health issues from the very beginning of her parliamentary career, with her maiden speech in 2015 focusing on the impact of health inequalities in her local area of Coventry. Fletcher has since led parliamentary advocacy on funding for hospice-based palliative care, having spoken movingly about the support that her local Myton Hospice provided as her husband faced a terminal cancer diagnosis.

  10. Matt Hancock, Conservative, West Suffolk: Forced to resign having been caught breaking his own COVID-19 guidance, Matt Hancock was Health and Social Care Secretary for much of the pandemic. Losing the whip following his decision to participate in "I'm a Celebrity" – which he claimed was to help raise awareness of dyslexia – Hancock has remained involved in health and neurodiversity issues as an independent MP. He leaves Parliament as a Conservative MP, having had the whip restored last week.

  11. Sir George Howarth, Labour, Knowsley: First elected to Parliament in 1986, Sir George has held ministerial posts in Government and the Opposition – but never on health. He has nevertheless actively campaigned on health issues as a backbencher, championing issues as diverse as the role of community pharmacy, access to eating disorder services, and cancer pathways. Having lost his own daughter to complications arising from Type 1 diabetes in 2011, Sir George worked with Theresa May to launch a new inquiry into Type 1 diabetes and eating disorders in 2022.

  12. Sir Sajid Javid, Conservative, Bromsgrove: As Secretary of State for Health and Social care between 2021 and 2022, Sir Sajid sought to drive digital transformation in the NHS, likening the NHS to "Blockbuster in the age of Netflix" and launching a plan for digital health and social care. Sir Sajid has continued to be vocal on health since his dramatic resignation from Government, in 2023 calling for a Royal Commission exploring potential NHS reforms.

  13. Barbara Keeley, Labour, Worsley and Eccles South: Keeley has held three Shadow health roles, most recently as Shadow Health and Social Care Minister, with a long history of campaigning on issues including young people's mental health services, quality of life for carers and care for autistic people and people with learning disabilities. Diagnosed with breast cancer just before the 2019 General Election, Keeley has talked publicly about her illness to raise awareness about self-examination.

  14. Dame Andrea Leadsom, Conservative, South Northamptonshire: Dame Andrea has been a longstanding campaigner on infant health and wellbeing, launching the 1,001 Critical Days Manifesto as a cross-party campaign in 2012. In 2020, she was appointed as the Government’s Early Years Health Adviser to lead a review into improving health outcomes for babies and young children, and has most recently incorporated Start for Life into her brief as Public Health and Primary Care Minister. Her resignation letter describes early years support as her "greatest passion", and calls on the next Government to take this work forwards.

  15. Caroline Lucas, Green Party, Brighton Pavilion: The Green Party's first and only Westminster MP has been an active voice in Parliament on the 'privatisation' debate, having criticised both Labour and the Conservatives on the use of the independent sector for NHS activity. Lucas has also been vocal on the rights and pay of healthcare workers, in 2023 describing nurses' pay as "downright sexist".

  16. Craig Mackinlay, Conservative, South Thanet: Mackinlay made headlines with his dramatic return to Parliament just one day before the election was called, eight months after a battle with sepsis. Following "36 hours of intense soul searching", Mackinlay announced his decision to step down in order to prioritise his recovery, but has pledged to continue campaigning on sepsis awareness and access to prosthetics.

  17. Theresa May, Conservative, Maidenhead: Best known for serving as UK Prime Minister between 2016 and 2019, May has still found the time to support health issues close to her heart. Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2013, she is an Ambassador for Type 1 Diabetes charity JDRF, and is Patron of the Maidenhead-based National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and East Berkshire's Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service.

  18. Steve McCabe, Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak: McCabe has regularly engaged on health, innovation and medicines access issues throughout his 27 years in Parliament. A qualified social worker and former Shadow Education Minister, he has brought his interest in children's issues to his health advocacy, having been involved in APPGs on Fit and Healthy Childhood, Children who need Palliative Care, and Speech and Language Difficulties.

  19. Dr Matthew Offord, Conservative, Hendon: Dr Offord has led parliamentary calls for an eye health strategy, having first become interested in eye health as a child when he was diagnosed with extreme myopia – subsequently having two detached retinas and undergoing cataracts operations on both eyes.

  20. Dr Dan Poulter, Labour, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich: Dr Poulter, who works part time as an NHS consultant psychiatrist, was a recent defector from the Conservatives, describing it as "increasingly difficult to look my NHS colleagues in the eye, my patients in the eye, and my constituents in the eye with good conscience”. During the Cameron-Clegg coalition, Poulter paused his medical career to serve as a Health Minister, where his primary responsibilities related to workforce issues, NHS estates and IT systems.

  21. Virendra Sharma, Labour, Ealing Southall: A former bus conductor and longstanding local councillor, Sharma has been active on health issues in the UK and developing countries around the world throughout his parliamentary career – including through roles on the Health and Social Care Select Committee and International Development Select Committee. He married these areas of interest through the APPG on Global Tuberculosis, which he chaired for over ten years.

  22. Henry Smith, Conservative, Crawley: First elected in 2010, Smith has campaigned extensively on health both nationally and at the consistency level. Although his interests in health are wide-ranging, from COVID-19 to dyslexia, his work on blood cancer is particularly notable - having formed the APPG on Blood Cancer in memory of his late mother. Locally, he successfully campaigned for the return of urgent care services in Crawley.

  23. Dr Philippa Whitford, SNP, Central Ayrshire: Dr Whitford worked as a breast cancer surgeon for 18 years before becoming an MP, and was the SNP's Shadow Health Spokesperson for over five years. An advocate for strong public health measures, she has been particularly vocal on immunisation, chairing the APPG on Vaccinations for All which aims to ensure equitable access to routine vaccination within the UK and around the world.

  24. Dame Rosie Winterton, Labour, Doncaster Central: Deputy Speaker Dame Rosie was first elected in 1997, and served as a Health Minister between 2003 and 2007, where her reforms to the NHS dental contract left a still-salient legacy. In opposition, Dame Rosie has continued to be a voice on health nationally and locally, from lobbying for a new hospital in Doncaster alongside Ed Miliband to becoming a Champion for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Congratulations and thank you again for making a difference to patients’ lives across the country.

Who will pick up the baton?

Although we are losing arguably some of the strongest parliamentary health advocates, ministers and leaders of recent decades, there is cause for optimism. Many PPCs already have a strong track record on health – and in February this year Incisive Health selected 24 candidates for the class of ‘24 PPCs to look out on health in our 24 for 24 report. Expect to hear more from these candidates in the weeks to come!

Follow Incisive Health’s GE2024 commentary on LinkedIn.

If you have any questions for the team, or would like advice or support, please do get in touch via info@incisivehealth.com.