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Matt Hancock pays tribute to NHS for saving his sister during first speech as health secretary

PUBLISHED: 15:30 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:08 20 July 2018

From left, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) chairwoman Sheila Childerhouse, WSFT chief executive Dr Stephen Dunn, health secretary Matt Hancock and WSFT medical director Dr Nick Jenkins Picture: WSFT

From left, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) chairwoman Sheila Childerhouse, WSFT chief executive Dr Stephen Dunn, health secretary Matt Hancock and WSFT medical director Dr Nick Jenkins Picture: WSFT

WSFT

A Suffolk MP has spoken about his “deeply personal” reasons for respecting the NHS during his maiden speech as health secretary.

Matt Hancock's sister Emily Gilruth riding at the Barefoot Estates Burnham Market International Horse Trials 2016 Picture: MARK BULLIMOREMatt Hancock's sister Emily Gilruth riding at the Barefoot Estates Burnham Market International Horse Trials 2016 Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

In a poignant presentation at West Suffolk Hospital today, Matt Hancock described how the health service had saved his sister’s life after a horse riding accident.

Professional rider Emily Gilruth, 41, was in a coma for four days after she fell and hit her head while competing at Badminton Horse Trials in May last year, at the same time her brother was campaigning for his West Suffolk seat in the general election – which he won.

Addressing staff at the Bury St Edmunds based hospital, Mr Hancock said: “I love my sister and the NHS saved her life, so when I say I love the NHS, I really mean it.

“My commitment to the health service and the fundamental principles that underpin it is not just professional, it is deeply personal.”

Mr Hancock revealed he spent hours in the waiting room at Southmead Hospital in Bristol and heard first-hand from staff about their experiences working within the health service.

“It was a very traumatic time for us all as you can imagine,” he told reporters following his speech.

“It was in the middle of the 2017 general election campaign, so I was not having a very good time.

“She was cared for by the intensive care unit who kept her alive, and then helped her recover.

“There are so many families in the country who, like me, have had the NHS come to their aid at their most difficult times.”

Mr Hancock wore an NHS badge given to him by predecessor Jeremy Hunt to deliver his first policy speech, in which he listed workforce, technology and disease prevention as his early key priorities.

The former secretary for digital, culture, media and sport announced a £487 million funding package to transform technology in the NHS.

The health service is already working with Amazon so expert health advice from NHS Choices can be tailored for voice activated devices such as Alexa, Mr Hancock revealed.

Mr Hancock, who had held his seat in West Suffolk since 2010, told hospital staff: “From today, let this be clear – tech transformation is coming.

“The opportunities of the this new technology, done right across the whole health and care system are vast, so let’s work together to seize them.”

Just two weeks into his new job, Mr Hancock said he was also exploring whether the A&E target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours of arrival was “clinically appropriate”.

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