Notable Alumni - Anne Milton

Anne Milton
Postgraduate Diploma in District Nursing, 1982

Robert Humphreys

After 25 years on the frontline of the health service, including a stint as a district nurse in Hackney and as a steward for the Royal College of Nursing, Anne Milton was elected as Conservative MP for Guildford in 2005. Having served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, she was recently appointed Vice Chamberlain of HM Household and a Government Whip. 

For Anne Milton, the move from nursing to politics was a natural progression. ‘For most people, party political affiliation comes first,’ she says. ‘For me, it was the other way round. I decided I wanted to be a politician before I decided which party to join. The important thing was to be an advocate for people. As a district nurse, I could speak on behalf of my patients. Now, as an MP, I’m representing the interests of 77,000 constituents.’ 

She recalls her days studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in District Nursing at South Bank with affection. ‘South Bank has always worked incredibly hard to raise the bar when it comes to nurse education. The standard of my training was very high.’ Having completed the course, Anne worked as a district nurse in Hackney, then moved to St Thomas’ where she pioneered a scheme aimed at relieving the pressure on hospital beds by providing patients with support so that they could be discharged earlier.  

In the early 1990s, she made the decision to go into politics, serving first as a Conservative councillor before being elected as MP for Guildford in a hard-fought contest in the 2005 General Election. She was appointed Shadow Minister for Tourism in 2006, and Shadow Health Minister in 2007. In 2010 she became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health. In her current role as Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, she is a government whip, responsible for ensuring that the government’s business gets through the House. 

She believes the most important qualities for an MP include ‘a love of people. You have to find them all interesting, whatever their interests are!’ Add to that a good grasp of detail, boundless energy and the ability to read very fast. Age and experience are a distinct advantage too. ‘Past the age of 45, you just know more,’ she says. ‘But the really crucial thing is that the Commons has a mix of people of all ages and backgrounds.’ 

The lessons learned during her nursing career and in her time at South Bank are still relevant. ‘Working in Hackney, I saw some of the poorest living conditions in the country. Here in Guildford, I see some of the most affluent. But you can never generalise. People aren’t a mass, they’re individuals. At South Bank, my tutors placed enormous emphasis on the idea of individual autonomy and of understanding the human condition. As an MP, just as in medicine, you have to diagnose and work out the right course of treatment.’ 

It’s hardly surprising, then, that Anne’s message is very much pro-engagement. ‘Politics is relevant to all our lives,’ she says. ‘It’s about your place at university, it’s about the bus you catch to get there, it’s about your friend or relative sitting in A&E.’ Her advice is simple – get involved, and don’t assume that other people are going to do things for you. Whether in politics or any other career, she says, ‘Be clear about what you want, and go out and get it.’ 

© London South Bank University 2018