Intended for healthcare professionals



JJ竞技 2022 ; 378 doi: (Published 07 September 2022) Cite this as: JJ竞技 2022;378:o2186
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. Kent

The UK’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, has appointed Thérèse Coffey as England’s health and social care secretary.

The MP for Suffolk Coastal becomes the third person to hold the health and social care post in as many months. She takes over from Steve Barclay, who had only two months in the job.

Coffey, 50, who leaves her role as work and pensions secretary, is a close friend of Truss and managed her Conservative Party leadership campaign against Rishi Sunak. The immediate challenges for Coffey to tackle as health secretary are record NHS waiting lists, ambulances stacking up, and a severe workforce crisis. She will also have to divide her time with her other new position as deputy prime minister.

Accepting her appointment, Coffey said, “Patients are my top priority, as we focus on ‘ABCD’—ambulances, backlog, care, doctors and dentists.”

The BMA responded by calling for ‘EFG’—ending attacks on the profession, fixing pension rules that are forcing doctors to leave, and giving doctors back the pay they have lost since 2008.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme on 7 September, Coffey said that she was “conscious of the huge challenge that the NHS is facing.” She said that her “attention to delivery and detail” in her previous role in the Department for Work and Pensions was the reason she had been asked to lead the Department of Health and Social Care.

She said that she was meeting NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, that day and that it was “not about a blame game” but about working together to “fix the system so that patients come first.”

No time to delay

Health leaders said that they hoped Coffey’s appointment would lead to much needed stability. Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said, “Having gone through four health secretaries over the last five years, health leaders hope this will signal a period of stability in this office and a razor sharp focus on the challenges facing the NHS.

“Health leaders need a government that is ready to listen and ready to act for the long term. We will not have an NHS that is fit for the future without investment in capital, in its workforce, and in our broken social care system. There is no time to delay.”

Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said, “Ms Coffey takes office at a time of greater crisis in the NHS than any of her predecessors. Ahead of another perilous winter for our health service, she has a unique opportunity to change the trajectory of the NHS for the better.” He called for her to act to restore pay levels in the NHS and sort out the pension rules.

Banfield added that Coffey must ensure that any extra resources put into social care would not be taken out of NHS budgets. He warned, “It would be a huge mistake to seek to make up for the cancellation of the health and social care levy by cutting the NHS.”

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, called on Coffey not to duck the big issues and to work with frontline staff to deliver solutions. She said, “With an emergency budget expected to be just weeks away, the need for a fully funded workforce plan for health and care must be top of her mind. With a staggering 132 000 NHS vacancies and many more across social care, these workforce gaps must be tackled as a matter of urgency.”

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