An MP has accused former Tory Dan Poulter of "letting down" his Suffolk constituents by defecting to Labour.

Over the weekend, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Poulter announced that he would be crossing the floor in the House of Commons over the Tories' handling of the NHS and would be stepping down as an MP at the next general election.

The practising GP accused the Tories of "mishandling" the health service and said he could not look his patients, colleagues and constituents in the eye while still a Conservative MP.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak on Suffolk MP Dan Poulter defection to Labour

But Therese Coffey, MP for the neighbouring Suffolk Coastal constituency, said: “I completely disagree with Dan and consider he has let down the 35,000 people who voted for him as a Conservative MP versus the fewer than 12,000 voters who wanted a Labour MP."

East Anglian Daily Times: Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has accused Dan Poulter of letting down his constituentsSuffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has accused Dan Poulter of letting down his constituents (Image: Archant)The former Health Secretary added: "The NHS is having record spending, substantially higher than in 2010, from which local patients will benefit - including the newly rebuilt A&E due to open in Ipswich Hospital this summer, the new dental centre, the brand new world class orthopaedics centre and the confirmation of a brand new hospital in West Suffolk.”

The leader of Dr Poulter's former party - Prime Minister Rishi Sunak - said he was "wrong" to join the Opposition benches, citing a 200,000 drop in NHS waiting lists, largely due to a move to encourage patients to visit pharmacists.

East Anglian Daily Times: Dan Poulter has joined the Labour PartyDan Poulter has joined the Labour Party (Image: Archant)

READ MORE: Suffolk MP Dan Poulter quits Conservatives and joins Labour

He said: “I think he was wrong.

“We’ve got a record number of doctors and nurses, we’re treating more people than we’ve ever done before.

East Anglian Daily Times: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Dan Poulter was 'wrong' to defect to LabourPrime Minister Rishi Sunak said Dan Poulter was 'wrong' to defect to Labour (Image: PA)“After a difficult few years because of the pandemic, the NHS is very much on the road to recovery and you can see that in the last set of figures.”

However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed Dr Poulter, saying: "We have a mission on health, which includes mental health and I'm really pleased that Dan Poulter has now joined us and will support that work.

READ MORE: Dan Poulter has written letter to East Suffolk Council

"In leaving the Conservatives and coming to Labour, Dan has said that that's driven by his sense of wanting to support and ensure the future of the NHS and only Labour is going to do that.

"He probably speaks for very many Tory voters who equally think that their party has drifted away from what it once was and I say to them, as I said to Dan, you are very welcome to join us.

East Anglian Daily Times: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has welcomed the defecting Dan Poulter to the Labour partyLabour leader Sir Keir Starmer has welcomed the defecting Dan Poulter to the Labour party (Image: Joe Giddens/PA)"I'm very very pleased that he's now a Labour MP and will support that vital mental health work."

For his part, Dr Poulter said: “I thought very long and hard about what the right thing to do was and of course, one option was to have a by-election – if this had been six or 12 months ago, I’m sure that would be what I would have done.

“We’re now at the point where a general election is going to be called almost any moment in the next few weeks, maximum a few months and I felt that the right thing to do by my constituents was to continue to serve their best interests as I always have done until that general election is called and I hope Rishi Sunak calls it as soon as possible.”

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He said his work as an NHS mental health doctor had informed his decision to cross the floor, adding: “In all good conscience, it has become increasingly difficult for me to look at patients and my medical colleagues, my constituents in the eye as a Conservative MP, because of that mismanagement of the health service – because of the fact that patients are not receiving the service that they deserve.

“And for all of those reasons, I felt that the right thing to do was, as you should do when you’re in public life, is to say what you believe is the right thing for those patients and my constituents.

"And that’s that the Labour Party will do a much better job of running the NHS.”

Dr Coffey is not the only Suffolk MP to serve as Health Secretary as West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock held the office from 2018 to 2021.