Alan Johnson has been appointed health secretary by prime minister Gordon Brown, following the resignation of Patricia Hewitt.
The former postman moves across from his position as education secretary and was the runner-up in the Labour Party’s deputy leadership contest.
Having joined Tony Blair’s Cabinet in 2004, Johnson had also served as the work and pensions secretary and trade and industry secretary.
Unison welcomed the appointment of Johnson and called on him to inject a fresh, uplifting approach to the NHS and reverse the sliding morale among staff and patients. The union said of Johnson: “He is someone we can do business with.”
Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: “The change in power at Richmond House provides a golden opportunity for the government to change direction on its reform programme.
“We need to start treating NHS staff as part of the solution to delivering high-quality services, rather than part of the problem,” he added.
- John Hutton moves from the Department for Work and Pensions to a revamped trade and industry department, now called the Department of Business and Enterprise.
- Likewise, the Department for Education has been carved up, with Brown’s close aide Ed Balls looking after children and schools, while John Denham gets a newly-created department covering innovation, universities and skills. The old DfES will be now be called the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
- Peter Hain takes over the work and pensions brief. He was previously Northern Ireland secretary.