Published: 07/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5926 Page 11

The newly appointed Scottish health minister said this week that there would be 'no big change in policy' on hospital cuts - despite the furore which helped claim the scalp of his predecessor.

Andy Kerr, formerly minister for finance and public services, accepted the post on Monday.

Malcolm Chisholm, who held the health portfolio for three years, is now minister for communities, a move seen as a demotion.

Mr Chisholm had been criticised for apparently failing to intervene over NHS reorganisations which have led to outcries from members of local communities and Labour MPs worried about keeping their seats in the forthcoming general election.

Mr Kerr said after being appointed: 'There is no big change of policy. This is about listening and ensuring that we deliver the service for the people of Scotland.'

Scottish NHS Confederation director Hilary Robertson said: 'Our members will be looking forward to working with Mr Kerr, as will the confederation. We are reassured that he says there will be no big change of policy as it is widely agreed that we need service redesign because the status quo is not an option.'

Despite previously holding the public services brief, Mr Kerr is a relatively unknown quality in the health service. But his local authority background - he previously worked as a senior officer at Glasgow city council - suggests he might promote even closer working between health and local authorities.

His deputy will be Rhona Brankin, MSP for Midlothian. She replaces Tom McCabe who becomes minister for finance and public service reform.