Covid test firm founder made health minister
A former Department for Work and Pensions non-executive, homelessness charity founder and co-founder of a covid-19 testing firm has been appointed a junior health minister.
Nick Markham, who has also been conferred a life peerage, co-founded Cignpost Diagnostics after covid hit the UK in 2020.
According to Cignpost Diagnostics’ website, the firm’s clients include Netflix, the BBC and the PGA European Tour. It has a direct-to-consumer division – ExpressTest – which is among those named on the UK Health Security Agency’s list of testing providers. The company was incorporated in June 2020.
In April 2020, The Guardian reported Mr Markham had tried to warn the government it risked missing out on a substantial amount of covid tests from South Korea he had been offered through a contact. He is quoted as saying: “I get that they want to test the kit, but everyone is hiding behind this ‘we can’t decide until it’s tested’, which is perfectly reasonable, but we will get gazumped.”
In addition to having been lead NED at DWP, he was also deputy leader of Westminster Council and lead NED for the now disbanded Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Mr Markham is also the founder of social enterprise charity Safe Haven, which helps homeless people in London. He was previously ITV Strategy Director, helping to launch Freeview and overseeing the Carlton and Granada merger.
Mr Markham takes over the role from Lord Kamall, who was appointed junior minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of prime minister Liz Truss’ reshuffle.
The Department of Health and Social Care’s ministerial team has been entirely replaced in the reshuffle. New health and social care secretary Therese Coffey – who is a close ally of Ms Truss and also deputy prime minister – was among the first appointments to be made by the new prime minister.
The other appointments to the department are: former housing and local government secretary Robert Jenrick; former schools minister Will Quince; paediatrician Caroline Johnson; and former senior policy adviser Neil O’Brien.