David Prior has stepped down as chair of the Care Quality Commission to become a health minister in the new Conservative government.

Mr Prior, who was a Conservative MP until 2001 and is a former chief executive of the party, has been made parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Health with immediate effect.

David Prior North Norfolk Trust chair CQC preferred candidate

David Prior became chair of the CQC in December 2013

He will be made a peer to take up the role, and will replace Lord Howe at the DH, who it was announced yesterday would move to the Ministry of Defence.

Michael Mire, a former McKinsey partner who sits on the CQC board as a non-executive director, will chair the next board meeting. The health secretary will appoint Mr Prior’s replacement and the CQC said the search for the new chair would begin immediately.

Mr Prior became CQC chair in January 2013 following a stint as chair of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital FT between 2002 and 2013.

Together with chief executive David Behan, he has been responsible for guiding the CQC through a period of significant change in the wake of the Francis report, which found that regulatory failings contributed to poor care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

His outspoken views on subjects such as NHS competition have occasionally landed him in controversy during his tenure at the regulator.

Mr Prior said he was “enormously excited” about his appointment.

“However it is a bitter sweet moment for me because I have loved working at CQC for the last two and a half years,” he added.

“It has been a great privilege to work with so many talented staff who are committed to improving the lives of people who use health and care services. 

“I believe that the new regulatory model we have developed will not just identify poor care, but also stimulate and encourage services to improve.

“In David Behan, the CQC has an exceptional chief executive, and his leadership, supported by the executive team and the board, will ensure that the organisation continues to build on the progress already made.”

Mr Behan said: “David’s experience and insight will be a fantastic addition to the ministerial team.

“The news of his appointment is, however, tinged with sadness as it means that we will be losing a fantastic chair, whose direction and challenge has helped CQC to make huge strides in delivering real benefits for people who use services.”

He added: “David can be justly proud of his crucial role in shaping the organisation into one that is more effective and more responsive to people’s needs.”