The new Health Minister, Dr Therese Coffey, has only been in post a mere two days but is already preparing bold plans to improve NHS efficiency and tackle key problems such as lack of beds and social care.
It is said that Dr Coffey is proposing to offer hundreds of millions of pounds to care homes to look after patients who are declared fit to leave hospital but are not able to due to a lack of social care. 13,000 hospital beds are currently filled by “delayed discharge” patients and transferring a portion of them to care homes would free a significant amount of bed space, officials believe.
Detail is expected next week in a comprehensive strategy outlining the new Government’s vision for the NHS. Confirmation of the aforementioned plan is subject to approval by the Treasury. Dr Coffey is also considering reform of pension tax bills for senior doctors to prevent early retirement and increasing referrals of NHS 111 patients to pharmacists to alleviate the burden on GPs.
But, who is the new Health Secretary?
Dr Therese Coffey originally hails from Liverpool but has represented the eastern constituency of Suffolk Coastal since 2010, just a short way from the new PM’s South West Norfolk constituency. Speaking of the new PM, Liz Truss is her closest friend and political ally – hence Dr Coffey’s elevation to such a key post as well as Deputy PM – with the pair said to complement each other.
The new PM is suited to being the statesmanlike, omnipresent overseer of Government, while her deputy is a popular and convivial operator yet a master of detail.
While Dr Coffey does not possess prior experience of a health brief, most recently serving as Boris Johnson’s Work and Pensions Secretary, she is a qualified chemist who holds a PhD in Chemistry from UCL.
She took on the first morning media round for the new Government – proving she will be one of PM Truss’s most reliable spokespeople for at least the next two years – and spoke about her priorities. She neatly termed them the “ABCDs” – ambulances, the backlog, care and doctors (and dentists).
Here are some quick facts about Dr Coffey’s health views:
- She claimed the UK’s high COVID-19 death rate was due to obesity and an elderly population
- She does not favour fines for missed GP appointments and has consistently voted to allow GPs to buy services on behalf of their patients
- She is strongly against euthanasia
- As a staunch Catholic, she is not in favour of abortion but has stated that abortion law would not change
- A regular smoker, she has consistently voted against smoking bans
- She has generally voted against restricting the provision of services to private patients
- She is a mental health advocate who has called for more openness about the subject to remove the stigma