Healthcare: At a Glance - Hewitt beds in as Health Secretary

Patricia Hewitt has taken over from John Reid as Health Secretary.

Does the Government plan health policy changes?

Hewitt, formerly at the Department of Trade and Industry, has pledged to press ahead with NHS reform, saying she will continue the work of previous incumbents Reid and Alan Milburn.

What will be the main comms messages that government health bodies will be pushing?

We can expect more of the same. But there will need to be some particularly careful message management from both the Department of Health and Labour Party PROs over the NHS's plan to increase the use of private sector treatment centres - from five per cent of operations to up to 15 per cent.

Which stakeholders are most queasy about this?

Pretty much all of them: a whopping £3bn has been promised to effectively buy 1.7 million private operations. The most common worry is that increased privatisation will destabilise the work already carried out by the NHS. The British Medical Association says this is of huge concern to doctors, while public sector workers' unions, such as Unison, will also need to be convinced that their members are not under threat.

Above all, will we hear the words 'choice' and 'patient-led'?

Loud and clear. Media relations, internal comms and education work will most likely be centred around these buzzwords. Hewitt has praised the existing ten-year NHS Plan but warns that there is still much to do: 'I am determined to drive forward our plans to create a patient-led NHS in the direction set by the Prime Minister, while keeping up the pace of change set by my predecessors.'

What will be the first things to change?

In the best tradition of new appointments, Hewitt says she will spend three months 'listening and learning' with patients and NHS staff, even following staff as they go about their business.

Lucky them. And after Hewitt has put down the bedpan?

The other messages are familiar enough: get maximum waiting times down to 18 weeks, give patients more choice and control over their treatment - and, that hot pre-election topic, tackle the MRSA problem in hospitals. Further information www.dh.gov.uk.

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