Boris Johnson has appointed a former NHS trust executive who advises him on health policy to the newly created position of No 10 permanent secretary.
In the latest move to shake-up his inner circle, the Prime Minister announced that Samantha Jones will take the role for six months on an “interim” basis.
Ms Jones had been Mr Johnson’s expert adviser on NHS transformation and social care, meaning she helped craft the newly announced plan to bring down NHS waiting lists.
The former nurse and NHS veteran will also hold the title of chief operating officer for Downing Street, as she helps shape the new civil service structure being created for the Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson announced the establishment of an “Office of the Prime Minister” after Sue Gray, the civil servant investigating partygate claims, criticised the setup in Downing Street.
Boris Johnson’s popularity is at the lowest of his premiership
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’s appointment is just the latest in a string of sweeping changes seen at the heart of Downing Street, as Mr Johnson undergoes a reset after claims of lockdown-breaking parties.
He has already appointed a new director of communications, Guto Harri, a new chief of staff, Steve Barclay, and a new head of the No 10 Policy Unit, Andrew Griffith.
The appointment means that an adviser, rather than a permanent secretary already leading a government department, takes the position.
Antonia Romeo, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice, decided not to apply for the role, despite initial talks.
The role involves overseeing around 400 civil servants, much fewer than the thousands managed by permanent secretaries at government departments.
Ms Jones was previously the chief executive of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, as well as Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust.
Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, said: “I am delighted Samantha has agreed to take on this critical role. Samantha has the blend of skills and experience needed to take on the job.”
Ms Jones said: “I am pleased to have been asked by the Prime Minister to take up the role of permanent secretary in No 10. I look forward to establishing an Office for the Prime Minister that provides him with the professional operation to deliver his agenda.”
One Downing Street source praised the impact Ms Jones has had in No 10 in the recent past, including in shaping plans to reduce NHS backlogs and tackle the social care crisis.
But there were other negative developments for Mr Johnson on the partygate front on Wednesday, as a Tory donor voiced disquiet over his leadership in the wake of the allegations.
John Armitage, a financier who has given more than £3 million to the Conservative Party, suggested Mr Johnson had lost “moral authority” and therefore should step down.
Mr Armitage has donated more than £500,000 to the Tories since Mr Johnson became Prime Minister, but he has also given money to Labour, including £12,500 in March.
Mr Armitage told the BBC: “What do I think about what’s going on in 10 Downing Street?
“Look, I feel politicians should go into politics to do good for their country. And that is the overwhelming reason to be in politics.
“I don’t think it’s about your own personal sense of getting to the top of a snakes and ladders game.”
Metropolitan Police not pursuing blackmail claims
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police confirmed it was not pursuing allegations of “blackmail” by Conservative whips made by Tory rebels.
Scotland Yard said in a statement: “We can confirm that the MPS has received information related to concerns of inappropriate influence being exerted on Members of Parliament.
“The information has been carefully assessed by specialist detectives who have determined that no criminal offences have been identified and therefore no investigation will be commenced.”