Former senior Tory MP and doctor quits job as NHS chair in disgust at government health cuts

A former senior Tory MP and GP has blasted the government and quit her job as an NHS chair in protest against continuous budget cuts to crumbling hospitals.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, who was a Conservative MP for nine years and chair of the government’s health committee, said she has been forced to leave her NHS job as she could not sign off on any further cut to health service budgets.

Dr Wollaston was appointed as chair of NHS Devon the body responsible for health service in the area in 2021 and also works as a GP. In February 2019 she quit the Conservative party and defected to the Liberal Democrat party in August 2019.

In a post on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, she said: “With regret, I have decided to resign as chair of NHS Devon. Thank you to all the wonderful NHS, care and voluntary sector teams that are out there doing their very best in challenging circumstances.

“Did not feel able to sign off on a further cut... It really makes no sense to ‘punish’ the most challenged systems with penalties on their capital budgets when access to capital is essential to improving their performance, conditions and safety. The state of our infrastructure in too many places is frankly shocking.”

She said that the next government must pay “serious attention” to investing in NHS buildings and address the “shocking waste of public money” lost due to delays in NHS bodies accessing capital funding.

Dr Wollaston added she was “genuinely sad to be leaving NHS Devon but in a nutshell, not happy as chair to sign off on the financials so time for me to go. No point promising the unachievable, especially if only achievable with unacceptable consequences.”

Her warning to the incoming government comes following reported repeated delays in the government’s flagship new hospitals programme, which health leaders warned has been “beset by delays.”

In 2020, the government announced its New Hospital Programme (NHP) which pledged to build 40 hospitals by 2030. In May 2023, ministers committed to prioritising rebuilding facilities that included reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).

Ministers said some of the hospital projects, which can include anything from a whole new hospital to a major refurbishment and alteration of an existing hospital, will now not be completed until after 2030.

The Conservative Party was approached for comment.