Health Secretary concedes NHS needs improvement quickly

7 September 2022, 09:00 | Updated: 7 September 2022, 09:06

Health Secretary says changes need to be made to the NHS quickly

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Thérèse Coffey conceded that the NHS needs improvement quickly and said she hopes doctors will "continue to put their patients first" when asked about potential strikes.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast the new Health Secretary said: "I'm also very conscious that we need to make improvements and we need to make them quickly."

When Nick asked how she would avert a junior doctor strike, she said: "I hope of course that people will continue to put their patients first."

She added: "I think people will be receiving a significant package that's already been agreed, and that's through the independent pay review body. We've accepted that recommendation.

"More broadly, the Government has been investing in cost-of-living payments."

Health Secretary grilled on junior doctor strikes

Meanwhile, health leaders have warned Therese Coffey has inherited an NHS and social care system "in crisis".

Experts from across the sector have welcomed Ms Coffey to her new role as Health Secretary but warned that she has taken on the job during a challenging period for the health service.

As well as being appointed as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for England, Ms Coffey is stepping up to become Liz Truss's second-in-command as Deputy Prime Minister.

Experts have said that they hope the dual role shows that the Government is taking the challenges facing the health service "seriously".

They also welcomed the indication from the new Prime Minister that she would "put our health service on a firm footing".

Health leaders said that the pressing items in Ms Coffey's in-tray will include:

  • A record waiting list;
  • Problems in urgent and emergency care;
  • Soaring numbers of patients stuck in hospital due to so-called "delayed discharges";
  • A crisis in dentistry services with many struggling to access care;
  • Challenges facing mental health, community, acute and ambulance services;
  • Worries over winter pressures including further waves of Covid-19 and additional pressures from flu;
  • Concerns over how the cost of living crisis will impact the health service;
  • The possibility of health and care staff taking industrial action over pay.

Ms Coffey, told Sky News: "We've got priorities A, B, C, D - ambulances, backlogs, care, D - doctors and dentists. And we're going to work through that and we'll make sure that we're delivering for the patients".

Asked whether she is ready for strikes, she said: "I think we've got to be ready for patients and that's my top priority, and how we can make best use of our department and of course the NHS in order to achieve the best outcomes for them".

And asked what her message is to potentially demoralised NHS staff, Ms Coffey she recognised "they've done excellent work" and repeated her priorities.

Ms Coffey takes over as Health Secretary from Steve Barclay who moves to the backbenches after a brief time in the role following Sajid Javid's resignation in June 2022. Mr Javid in turn replaced Matt Hancock after he resigned for breaching pandemic rules.

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