Who is Thérèse Coffey, new health secretary appointed by Liz Truss?

The Suffolk Coastal MP, who replaces Steve Barclay, voted against protecting the title of ‘nurse’ in law and voted for more restrictions on trade unions

The Suffolk Coastal MP, who replaces Steve Barclay, voted against protecting the title of ‘nurse’ in law and voted for more restrictions on trade unions

New health and social care secretary Thérèse Coffey
New health and social care secretary Thérèse Coffey. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

New prime minister Liz Truss has announced her new cabinet, with Thérèse Coffey taking over the health and social care portfolio.

Ms Coffey replaces Steve Barclay, who was appointed by ex-prime minister Boris Johnson after Sajid Javid’s shock resignation.

Who is the new health and social care secretary?

Ms Coffey voted against protecting the title of ‘nurse’ in law and has voted for more restrictions on trade unions.

The MP for Suffolk Coastal, also voted against gay marriage and extending abortion access in Northern Ireland.

She is a close ally of Liz Truss, with both originally campaigning to remain in the EU before the 2016 referendum, but has since switched to supporting Brexit.

Ms Coffey was confirmed as secretary of state for health and social care, as well as Ms Truss’s deputy prime minister by Number 10 last night.

She replaces Steve Barclay, who was health secretary for just two months following the resignation of Sajid Javid in protest over Boris Johnson’s leadership and integrity.

Ms Coffey was formerly the secretary of state for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which she held since 2019.

In 2017 she voted in favour of making it unlawful for health workers to take industrial action without 40% of union members taking part in a ballot.

RCN urges new health secretary to ‘buck the trend’ of predecessors by listening to nurses

As she takes over at the Department of Health and Social Care, Ms Coffey will be expected to make urgent plans ahead of winter, as the NHS struggles with record staff vacancies, huge ambulance waiting times, potential strikes from nurses over pay and a shortage on beds in hospitals and care homes.

And with rumours that the national insurance hike to provide £13 billion of funding for social care is likely to be spiked in Ms Truss’s promised tax cuts, Ms Coffey will face the big challenges with a smaller budget.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen called on Ms Coffey to ‘buck the trend’ of her predecessors by listening to nursing staff.

‘Our ask for professional and personal support cannot afford to fall on deaf ears – doing the right thing by nurses is the right thing by patients too,’ she said.

Some 300,000 nurses are set to vote on industrial action over pay in the coming weeks.

Liz Truss says priorities include ensuring people get GP and other NHS appointments

Prime minister Liz Truss has already indicated that her priorities for her cabinet should be GP appointments and primary care.

In her first speech as prime minister, she promised to transform Britain into an ‘aspiration nation’ with three early priorities, including putting the NHS on ‘front footing’ and dealing with the energy crisis.

Ms Truss said she will work to ensure people can get GP appointments and other NHS appointments when they need them.

Interviewed this morning on Sky News, Ms Coffey said her priorities as healthcare were A,B,C,D, which stands for ambulances, back log, care, doctors and dentists.

Asked whether she was ready for strikes and what her message would be to NHS staff who might be feeling demoralised, she told Sky News: ‘I think we’ve got to be ready for patients and that’s my top priority. I think we recognise that they’ve done excellent work, and I’ve told you my four priorities A,B,C,D and that’s what we’re going to do.’

Her comments come as her voting record on abortion rights was labelled ‘deeply concerning’ by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). Ms Coffey recently voted against making at-home abortion pills, introduced during the pandemic, permanently available in England and Wales.

BPAS’s chief executive Clare Murphy told the BBC that while politicians were entitled to have their own views, she was voting ‘against the advice of leading medical bodies including Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the BMA.’

‘To have a health secretary who would place their personal beliefs above expert clinical guidance is deeply concerning.’

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