The Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, has been appointed as the new Secretary of State for Health in PM Gordon Brown's new cabinet, hot on the heels of Patricia Hewitt's resignation last night.

In her letter to Brown, Hewitt said she had decided "for personal reasons" to stand down from government," and added that, while "I very much appreciate your offer for me to remain in Cabinet, I feel that this is the right moment for me to give more time to my constituency and my family - something my family would say is long overdue!"

In his responding letter, the PM thanked Hewitt for her "outstanding contribution" to the government, and said she "should be justly proud of her achievements.”

No surprise

The move comes as no real surprise, as Hewitt has come under increasing fire for her the National Heath Service struggling finances and the rushed implementation of the failed Medical Training Application Service for junior doctors, a fiasco that led to a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons earlier this year. And it was widely expected that she would not be chosen to continue her role in Brown’s new cabinet.

Alan Johnson, MP for Kingston Upon Hull West and Hessle, will be plunged straight into the deep end in his new role, facing a possible strike by nurses, and doctor's anger of MTAS and continued reform.

Commenting on his appointment, Acting Chairman of the BMA, Dr Sam Everington said: “The new Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he wants change in the NHS. Doctors have the ideas to realise change, we see patients every day and we know what works and what doesn’t. At our annual meeting this week doctors appealed for the government to work with them and listen to them."

“The appointment of a new Health Secretary provides an excellent opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care."