Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 15:02 UK

Burnham is new health secretary

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham moves from culture

Andy Burnham has been named as the new health secretary.

He replaces Alan Johnson, who has moved to the role of home secretary in Gordon Brown's cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Burnham moves from his post as culture secretary. Earlier this year he was heckled when he attended the Hillsborough memorial service.

Doctors' leaders said his biggest challenge would be to stop the "destabilising influence of spreading commercialisation" in the NHS.

In the next 12 months, the new health secretary will face some very serious challenges as the NHS prepares for a major squeeze in its funding
Steve Barnett
NHS Confederation

Mr Burnham was elected in 2001 as MP for the safe Labour seat of Leigh in Greater Manchester, close to his native Merseyside.

In 2006, while working as a health minister, he floated the prospect of an NHS constitution. Prime Minister Gordon Brown later adopted the idea.

He also spent time on the "NHS frontline" when he shadowed a GP, a porter, a cleaner and a psychiatric nurse to learn more about life in the health service.

But he had unpleasant moments in the job too, being heckled and booed at the Unison union conference in 2007.

In a speech to the Fabian Society that year, he set out his vision for the following decade in NHS.

He said: "If I had to sum up in a soundbite what the change of emphasis would be from this decade to the next, it would be this; from quantity to quality."

He acknowledged there had been resentment of changes being imposed "top-down".

Mr Burnham was a member of the Health Select Committee from 2001 to 2003, and also worked as parliamentary officer for the NHS Confederation, which represents managers, in the late 1990s.

Major challenges

Niall Dickson, chief executive of independent think-tank the King's Fund, said: "It is frustrating to have another change at the top when Alan Johnson had been in post for less than two years.

"This move has nothing to do with what is best for the health service.

"However, if a change had to be made we welcome the choice of Andy Burnham.

"He has experience of the health system both as a minister and in his earlier career and he has shown he is committed to the NHS and to reform."

Other groups said Mr Burnham would have to deal with major issues.

This move has nothing to do with what is best for the health service
Niall Dickson, King's Fund

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said: "The NHS faces huge challenges that the incoming health secretary will need to deal with as a matter of urgency.

"All aspects of the health service are under pressure from the destabilising influence of spreading commercialisation, which threatens to move the NHS away from its founding principles of being publicly funded, publicly provided and publicly accountable.

"We would urge the government to re-examine its policies before further damage is done to patient services.

"The health service also faces uncertainty over the implementation of the European Working Time Directive, which will introduce a 48-hour working week for junior doctors in August.

"There is evidence that the NHS is not prepared for the impact this will have on junior doctor training. The new health secretary must get a grip on this issue from the moment he or she takes office."

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing welcomed Andy Burnham's appointment and said it "wished him well".

NHS Confederation chief executive Steve Barnett said: "In the next 12 months, the new health secretary will face some very serious challenges as the NHS prepares for a major squeeze in its funding.

"We look forward to working with the new secretary to ensure that the NHS carries on providing what really matters - world class treatment for patients and a health service we can all feel proud of."

Mr Burnham was formerly a special adviser at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, parliamentary private secretary to David Blunkett and chief secretary at the Treasury under Chancellor Alistair Darling.



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EUROPEAN ELECTION RESULTS

MEP Seats

  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
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