DHSC offers £160,000 for chief scientist to succeed Chris Whitty

Recruitment firm in line for £40,000 if its search is successful
Current DHSC chief scientist and chief medical officer Chris Whitty (L) with government chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

The Department of Health and Social Care is offering up to £160,000 a year for candidates to take over chief medical officer Chris Whitty’s role as departmental chief scientific adviser, with headhunters set to reap up to £40,000 if they select the right candidate.

The chief scientific adviser will “play a leading role in enabling the Government to harness the power of health research to transform the delivery of services, dramatically improve health outcomes, drive economic growth and underpin the UK’s international science capability”, the job advert said.

The successful candidate, who will earn between £120,000 and £160,000, will work to ensure DHSC’s policymaking is underpinned by science and evidence. They will also co-lead the National Institute for Health Research, which manages around £1bn of government funding for clinical research a year.

They will succeed Whitty in the role, which he has held for nearly five years. Whitty will remain  England's chief medical officer.

A DHSC spokesperson told CSW that while Whitty kept his responsibilities as chief scientist when he became CMO in October 2019, the department had always intended to split the roles. The same happened when Whitty’s predecessor, Dame Sally Davies, became chief medical officer in 2010. 

Contract documents published this week show DHSC had requested headhunting support to “help identify an appropriate pool of candidates” for the role.

The department has agreed to pay £40,000 to executive search firm Saxton Bampfylde if it successfully identifies the chosen candidate for the post. The fixed fee includes expenses – but not VAT – and will only be paid out under certain conditions, which are redacted in the contract documents.

The recruitment firm is expected to come up with a “diverse mix of high-calibre candidates” to be shortlisted.

As well as working within DHSC, where they will lead a team of more than 150 and manage a budget of over £4m, the successful candidate will work closely with other government chief scientific advisers. They will also work with industry on areas such as the UK’s life-sciences strategy.

Applicants are expected to have an “outstanding track record in conducting health research with national and international credibility and extensive experience as a member of research funding boards”, the job ad said.

They will have managed large budgets and teams and have a “high-level understanding of the current issues in policy related, evaluative, translational and basic health science, as well as an understanding of the main issues facing the NHS, public health, academic and life sciences sectors”.

They will have worked with policymakers before, having both an understanding of government and the ability to communicate evidence to officials and ministers.

Chief social-care nurse appointed

In a second personnel change announced at the department this week, DHSC has appointed its first chief nurse for adult social care.

Professor Deborah Sturdy, who has been acting as strategic adviser for social care nursing to England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May in a one-day-a-week secondment since February, will represent social-care nurses and provide clinical leadership to the workforce, DHSC said.

She will work closely with May and care minister Helen Whately and chief nursing officer “to ensure the provision of high quality, personalised, joined up care”.

She has been appointed on an interim basis for six months to “further increase the professional support and expertise in the department over winter” before a permanent appointment is made in 2021.

May said Sturdy’s appointment would provide “a bridge across health and social care as well as supporting the delivery of the winter plan for social care”, providing “leadership and representation at the highest level” for social-care nurses.

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