Harborough MP stands down from role as health minister

He said he wants to spend more time in the constituency
Neil O'BrienNeil O'Brien
Neil O'Brien

Leicestershire MP Neil O’Brien has stepped down from his role as health minister.

The Harborough MP said he made the decision as he wants to spend more time in the constituency.

One of the responsibilities Mr O’Brien had in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was for tobacco and addiction. He was due to play a key role in delivering Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s effective ban on smoking and vaping in the younger generation.

Mr O’Brien said it has ‘been a privilege to serve at the DHSC’ but ‘with so much going on locally’ he ‘wants to focus 100 per cent on constituency work’. He said he had ‘asked to go to back benches’, adding ‘I’m also keen to see more of our two small children’.

The move comes as October polling by research and consulting firm Ipsos on voting intentions put the Conservative Party 20 points behind Labour. A General Election will need to take place in January 2025 at the latest.

This is not the only change in Government today. Suella Braverman was fired by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this morning after controversial comments and gaffes, leading to a cabinet reshuffle.

The Conservative Party said Rishi Sunak is conducting a ministerial reshuffle as he ‘strengthens his team in Government to deliver long-term decisions for a brighter future’. Sunak was under pressure to sack Ms Braverman after she defied Downing Street by publishing an article accusing police of bias over protests in support of Palestine.

Commenting on his decision to step down, Mr O’Brien said: “We have made some real progress during my time as a health minister. We have put more money, new technology and a lot more staff into doctors’ surgeries, and GPs as a result are now seeing about 15% more patients than before the pandemic. That’s about 23 extra appointments per surgery every working day.

“Come this winter we will be rolling out Pharmacy First which I have been driving. You’ll be able to see your pharmacist for a range of minor conditions and get treatment including antibiotics. We are investing over half a billion pounds in it, creating a whole new part of the NHS and taking the pressure off GPs.

“It has also been a pleasure to work on the PM’s visionary plans to phase out smoking and clamp down on attempts by the vaping industry to target kids. Smoking kills 64,000 people a year and this is the most significant move to prevent ill health in a generation – I have been proud to be part of it.

“But I promised when elected that I would always put local people and the constituency first. And there is so much going on at the moment locally – from the fight against Leicester dumping its overspill housing onto Harborough, to my work to get levelling up money invested to help regenerate Oadby and Wigston.

“I will continue to work flat out to try and help local people from the backbenches. Not being a minister also means you have more freedom to raise issues of local concern in the House of Commons, and I’m looking forward to doing just that.”