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Health leaders’ reaction to change of Health Secretary

Guarded responses lay down what are envisaged as Health Secretary’s highest priorities

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 05 September 2012

The surprise appointment of Jeremy Hunt (pictured) as Health Secretary has been met with a guarded reaction by health leaders.

While the departure of Andrew Lansley has been welcomed by some, the former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s credentials in health are far from clear, apart from that he is believed to be a supporter of homeopathic remedies. As a result, leaders have been cautious in their welcome and keen to lay out what they see as his priorities.

"Disaster in NHS carries on" was the BMA’s unofficial response, tweeted by deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, Dr Kailash Chand.

The official response from Dr Mark Porter, chair of BMA Council, was more muted. “The appointment of a new Health Secretary provides a fresh opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care and deal with the many challenges facing the NHS,” he said.

“The NHS is struggling to cope with the consequences of major change. At the same time worsening financial pressures are having an adverse impact on many patient services including waiting times and the availability of some treatments.

“Threats to the NHS workforce are escalating with attacks to the NHS pension scheme and the national pay scheme for our national health service. Investment in staff is essential to the long term sustainability of the NHS.

“We look forward to working with Jeremy Hunt on the many pressing issues facing our health service.”

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar congratulated Mr Hunt on his appointment and said the long-term sustainability of the NHS needs to be the top priority.

"I look forward to working closely with him to address the challenges facing our health service. Top of Mr Hunt's in-tray will be making sure the NHS is financially sustainable for the future and fit to respond to the needs of our changing population.

"The NHS reforms are important, but we must keep our eye on the long term issues the NHS is facing - an ageing population, and growing rates of obesity. Driving change in these areas will be the big test of the success of this Government." 

He added: "We would like to thank Andrew Lansley for his commitment to the NHS over the past eight and a half years, both in opposition and as health secretary."

Professor Chris Ham, chief executive at The King’s Fund said: “Jeremy Hunt takes up his post with the NHS performing well after years of investment and reform. However, fundamental changes in the way care is delivered are needed if the NHS is to respond to the demands of an ageing population, changing burden of disease and rising patient expectations. The new Secretary of State must show political leadership by supporting the case for radical transformation in the delivery of care. Although funding pressures on the NHS and social care are an immediate and pressing concern, he must focus on addressing the longer term challenges and ensure change benefits patients.” 

Picture credit: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

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