Therese Coffey becomes health secretary and deputy PM in Truss's new Cabinet

Therese Coffey Credit: PA

Therese Coffey has landed a central role as deputy prime minister in Liz Truss's new administration.

As well as being appointed health and social care secretary, Ms Coffey is stepping up to become Ms Truss’s second-in-command.

The 50-year-old former work and pensions secretary was widely expected to be rewarded with a key job in the Cabinet, having thrown her weight behind Ms Truss’s Tory leadership bid early on.

Ms Coffey, who has also been appointed as deputy prime minister, said her top priorities are "A, B, C, D - Ambulances, backlogs, care, D – doctors and dentists".

Asked whether she is ready for strikes, Ms Coffey 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.”

Asked what her message is to potentially demoralised NHS staff, Ms Coffey she recognised “they’ve done excellent work” and repeated her priorities.

The pair’s alliance is thought to stretch back to their post-university politics days, and was cemented when they were both elected as MPs of near-neighbouring eastern England constituencies in 2010.

Aside from geographic vicinity, with Ms Coffey’s Suffolk Coastal patch almost bordering Ms Truss’s South West Norfolk seat, they have a state education in common, as well as studies at Oxford, though several years apart.

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Born in 1971 in Lancashire, Ms Coffey went to school in Liverpool before heading to Oxford and then to University College London to do a PhD in chemistry.

Before entering politics, she worked in finance for confectionery giant Mars and on the corporate side of the BBC.

She made two failed attempts to enter the European Parliament before securing the safe Tory Suffolk Coastal seat in 2010.

A Catholic, Ms Coffey voted against same-sex marriage and extending abortion rights in Northern Ireland.

She landed her first government role in 2012, holding various posts including junior minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Becoming deputy prime minister is quite a promotion for Ms Coffey, who only joined the Cabinet when she was appointed work and pensions secretary by Mr Johnson in September 2019.

At the time, she celebrated the moment by tweeting a photo of herself and Ms Truss, saying: “I was delighted to attend my first Cabinet meeting at No 10 with my mate @trussliz showing me the ropes”.

Replacing Dominic Raab as deputy PM, Ms Coffey’s primary duties are to stand in at Prime Minister’s Questions and chair the Cabinet if Ms Truss is absent.

As health secretary, she will face the challenge of sorting a plan for the NHS without the guarantee of extra funds from the soon-to-be-canned national insurance hike.