New health secretary Therese Coffey has come under fire after her office issued guidelines telling employees to “be positive” and not use policy “jargon”.
An email, reportedly sent to staff at the Department of Health and Social Care and forwarded to employees of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), allegedly told them to avoid the use of “Oxford commas”. avoid – the last comma used in a list of things.
Tea Financial times (FT), who first reported the story, said the document was titled “Secretary of State’s New Ways of Working Preferences.”
He asked employees to “be precise” and “be positive — if we’ve done something right, let’s say so and avoid double denials,” the paper said.
A UKHSA employee told the FT that the email was “super patronizing” and added, “The idea that we have to phrase problems positively indicates that someone doesn’t want to solve problems, so that’s not encouraging.”
Ms Coffey also came under fire for the Twitter email from NHS staff and patients.
In the past, she shared her hatred of the Oxford comma on Twitter, describing it as one of her “pet hates” in 2015.
“I detest the Oxford comma and refuse to use it,” the MP wrote.
She said she was “elated” to learn that the Oxford University Press was reducing its use in 2011, adding: “I can’t stand it and are constantly removing it. Furious about it.”
According to government sources, it is not uncommon for ministerial teams to explain staff practices when appointing new ministers.
They said the government has “established a broad staff guideline to provide efficient service to the public and deliver better outcomes for patients”.
The FT reported that UKHSA workers felt “demoralised” after the government cut significant jobs earlier this year for fixed-term staff involved in fighting outbreaks during the Covid pandemic.
Some permanent employees have received a 2.5% pay increase to help manage the rising cost of living.
“We’re actually getting a pay cut,” an employee with knowledge of the plans told the FT.
A UKHSA spokesperson said: “UKHSA will not comment on any leaked emails or briefings.
“We greatly appreciate all of our hard-working colleagues who work tirelessly to ensure the health of our nation.”