The Prime Minister’s senior health adviser Samantha Jones has been appointed interim permanent secretary and chief operating officer of the new Office of the Prime Minister, as Boris Johnson continues his attempts to recover from the partygate scandal.
Ms Jones took up the post as Mr Johnson’s health adviser in March last year. She had previously worked for two years for Operose Health, the UK arm of US health giant Centene.
Before that she served for four years as director of new care models at NHS England, the chief executive of West Hertfordshire hospitals, a regional director for Care UK, and CEO of Epsom and St Helier Hospital.
A statement from the government said Ms Jones would be “the first chief operating officer for Downing Street, reviewing structures and operations in No 10 before a competition is launched to appoint the position permanently”.
Mr Johnson said: “I promised to make changes to my senior team so that we can get on with better delivering for the British people. That is what we are now doing by bringing in the very best skills and management experience with a clear vision to unite and level up our country.”
Ms Jones said: “I look forward to establishing an Office for the Prime Minister that provides him with the professional operation to deliver his agenda.”
Mr Johnson announced the creation of the OPM in response to the criticisms levelled at No10 by the senior civil servant Sue Gray during her investigations into covid restriction breaches in Downing Street.
He told Parliament: “It is time to sort out what Sue Gray rightly calls the ‘fragmented and complicated’ leadership structures of Downing Street, which she says have not evolved sufficiently to meet the demands of the expansion of No 10, and we will do that, including by creating an Office of the Prime Minister with a permanent secretary to lead No 10.”
According to the government website the OPM will help “the Prime Minister to establish and deliver the government’s overall strategy and policy priorities, and to communicate the government’s policies to Parliament, the public and international audiences”.
On Saturday the government announced that cabinet minister Steve Barclay would become the PM’s chief of staff with the job of integrating the new Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office.
A number of other senior figures had been rumoured in the press to be in line for the permanent secretary role, including Emily Lawson, who is currently working in NHS England on the covid vaccination programme, but who only transferred to number 10 from NHSE to lead a new delivery unit last summer. Ms Jones’ name had not been linked to it until today.