Patricia Hope Hewitt (born 2 December 1948) is an Australian-born British politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Leicester West since 1997, and served in the Cabinet until 2007, most recently as Health Secretary.
Born in Canberra, Australia, she is the daughter of Sir Lenox Hewitt, a leading civil servant in the Australian Prime Minister's Office and later chairman of Qantas. She was educated at Canberra Girls' Grammar School (formerly Canberra Church of England Girls' Grammar School) , and the Australian National University. She went on to study at both Newnham College, Cambridge and Nuffield College, Oxford where she was awarded two master's degrees. She speaks French and is a keen gardener.
Initially a Conservative, she moved to the left, becoming a committed equality activist and feminist. In 1981, she married William (Bill) Jack Birtles, a lawyer, in Camden; they have a daughter (born September 1986) and a son (born February 1988). In 1971, she became Age Concern's Press and Public Relations Officer, before joining the UK's National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) initially as a women's rights officer in 1973, and for nine years from 1974 as the General Secretary. She endured long-term surveillance by MI5 because of this, branded a "Communist sympathiser" by MI5 because of her relationship with Birtles in the 1970s. In 1990 the Council of Europe ruled that this surveillance had breached the European Convention of Human Rights. She was a member of the advisory panel of the New Statesman magazine for ten years from 1980, and is a former school governor at the Kentish Town Primary School.