Wales politics

What's in store for new Health Minister Mark Drakeford?

Mark Drakeford
Image caption Mark Drakeford used to hold ministers to account as health committee chairman

Wales' new Health Minister Mark Drakeford inherits one of the biggest, and arguably toughest, jobs in the Welsh government cabinet.

He has been appointed at a time of big change and financial pressure for the NHS.

Local health boards are putting forward plans to reorganise hospital services.

Some of the more controversial proposals have sparked protests from opponents who have called on Mr Drakeford's predecessor Lesley Griffiths to intervene.

Those demands will now land on Mr Drakeford's desk.

He was elected as the AM for Cardiff West at the last election in 2011, but he is no new-comer to the assembly or the inner workings of the government, having been a special adviser to former First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

Promotion

And he is no stranger to the intricacies of the health service - prior to his promotion he was the chairman of the assembly's cross-party health committee.

In that role it was his job to hold ministers to account. Now he'll be the one answering questions.

His elevation to the cabinet will come as no surprise to people in Cardiff Bay.

So what's in his inbox?

Overseeing hospital reconfiguration will be a big task.

He will find plenty of questions on the opposition benches, and possibly from some of his Labour party colleagues.

Changes that mean people could have to travel further for treatment are proving unpopular in some quarters.

The Welsh government has argued that change is necessary to put the NHS on a safe and sustainable footing.

Just this week Welsh hospitals have come under huge pressure from a spike in demand for emergency services.

'Collapse'

First Minister Carwyn Jones has even warned the health service will "collapse" without reform.

Now it will be Mr Drakeford's turn to make the case for a shake-up.

He will also take charge of a big piece of legislation to change the law on organ donation.

The bill to introduce an opt-out system, which presumes people have consented to being organ donors unless they state otherwise, is making its way through the assembly.

Only last month Ms Griffiths had to answer some difficult questions about the policy when she came before Mr Drakeford's health committee.

She has had a rough ride since Carwyn Jones appointed her to the health brief after the last election, surviving a no-confidence vote in the Senedd chamber last year.

Mr Drakeford will need all his experience and as much goodwill as he can muster if he is to fend off the flak that is likely to come his way.

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