Supper with British Prime Minister, Theresa May

Our CEO, Jacqueline Johnson North tells us why IAOCR actively engages with the people that shape our industry and about her recent supper with British Prime Minister, Theresa May.

IAOCR has been working with industry leaders, regulators and parliamentarians since 2011, you must have met some interesting people! What do you discuss with them and who stands out most?

Martin Robinson (IAOCR Co-Founder and EVP) and I have met with a number of people over the last few years. Prior to founding IAOCR we identified that GCP doesn’t go far enough in ensuring that people are competent in their respective roles in clinical research. We feel that this is a significant gap in the protection of patients’ wellbeing and in the integrity of clinical trial data . Furthermore, due to the way in which the regulations are interpreted, competent people are sometimes prevented from working on clinical trials, an unnecessary hindrance to using the pool of talent which is potentially available.

We’ve had discussions with a wide range of influencers from around the globe, including regulators and heads of industry.  One person who really grasped the importance of the competence issue was Andrew Gwynne MP, the (then) UK Shadow Health Minister.  After discussions with him about the issue, he agreed to speak at our Industry Leaders Think Tank in 2014 and stated “…It is also striking that clinical research is one of the only regulated industries without a uniform standard of competence. This is an anomaly that has no clear cause, but it is an anomaly that should be ended.” He delivered a very clear and engaging speech that really resonated with the meeting participants. Following the meeting we had many requests for the Core Global Standards : Core Competencies for Clinical Research which many leading organization now benchmark from.

Tell us about having supper with the British Prime Minister…

When and where did the supper take place?

Last Friday (7 October). It was an informal meal with about 30 people in a pub and I was invited to eat at Theresa May’s table.

What is Theresa May like?

The impression I have of Theresa is that she is in politics for the right reasons. She comes across as a principled person, modest and down to earth. I think she intends to make a positive change and genuinely cares about people. She is approachable and makes an effort to talk with everyone and remember people’s names.

Is it the first time you met her?

No, Martin and I first met Theresa a couple of years ago to raise our concerns about competence not being a requirement of GCP. She referred us to relevant parliamentary contacts that we had subsequent discussions with. That meeting was more formal and she came across as very efficient and decisive. Via Theresa’s office, I’ve also raised other concerns in the past and have found her to be a person that acts quickly and gets things done.

Did you discuss Brexit?

No – it was an informal supper without much political discussion.

What did you talk about?

Theresa is keen to encourage more women into politics as it is currently very male dominated and she thinks balance is important.  She told me that she thinks women are sometimes put off entering politics because they worry they won’t be good enough. I think this is an issue in the business world as well as in politics. In the past Martin and I have discussed the issue of imposter syndrome – it’s something I struggle with from time-to-time.

Who else was on your table?

There were eight of us on our table including MCA Chairman, Geoffrey Hill and Theresa’s husband, Philip May.

What was Philip May like?

It’s obvious that Philip is highly supportive of Theresa.  He is personable and also very successful in his own right. He has travelled and worked overseas and it was interesting to hear about some of his experiences. I asked him how he had found the Conservative Party Conference and he shared his challenge of trying to hold a business call in their room whilst a number of people were there briefing Theresa and preparing her for her speech. It was interesting to get a small idea of what happens behind the scenes.

You both look happy in the photo – what were you smiling about?

This is the best photo out of a few that were taken – I had my eyes closed in the others (I don’t photograph well!). We had just shared a joke about the benefits of digital photography over the old 24 exposure films that were a disappointment when you got them developed.

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