Intended for healthcare professionals

Student People

Sarah Wollaston, a general practitioner and Conservative MP for Totnes, Devon

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 06 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5938
  1. George Gillett, fourth year medical student
  1. 1University of Oxford, UK

The chair of the health select committee talks about the future of the NHS and her career in medicine and politics

Sarah Wollaston is a GP who wanted to make a difference. After graduating from King’s College London in 1986, she spent 23 years working in clinical medicine, first in paediatrics and then in general practice. During that time she also worked in medical education teaching junior doctors and as an examiner for the Royal College of General Practitioners. In 2009 she turned her attention to politics, after being selected as the Conservative Party candidate for Totnes, Devon. A year later she was elected as the member of parliament for the constituency. She successfully re-contested her seat in the 2015 general election and now chairs parliament’s health select committee.

What motivated you to get involved in politics?

As a GP, I often felt that a lot of health policy seemed to be divorced from the issues that faced my patients. So when I heard David Cameron say that he wanted more people who hadn’t been traditionally involved with politics to put themselves forward to become an MP, I picked up the phone and applied.

When you stood to be an MP, you campaigned on the fact you were “someone with a real job.” Have your colleagues valued your experience in healthcare?

I think that in parliament we do see more people who have real life experience, and several of my colleagues have experience of working in the NHS. What’s been surprising to me is how little use is made of that. When you arrive in parliament, there is no training in how to be an MP. Does anyone ask what areas you’re interested in and what you can contribute? Surprisingly, no.

You’re the chair of the health select committee. What does that involve?

The health committee’s job is to hold the government to account, to say challenging things, and to …

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