Mixed reception of Hunt as new health secretary

Jeremy Hunt Mr Hunt will now take the reins

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There has been a mixed reaction to the news that Jeremy Hunt will replace Andrew Lansley as health secretary.

The move has been described as disastrous by some, while others see it as a fresh opportunity for discussions about the challenges facing the NHS during its biggest shake-up yet.

It will be Mr Hunt who will now oversee the health bill and efficiency savings that come into force in April.

Mr Lansley becomes leader of the House of Commons.

My Hunt moves from the post of culture secretary, where he survived a Leveson Inquiry examination into his relationship with James Murdoch in light of News Corporation's bid for BSkyB in 2011.

On hearing the news, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association Dr Kailash Chand said on Twitter "disaster in NHS carries on".


Even Andrew Lansley's fiercest critics admired his grasp of detail. He is a rare example of a politician who has immersed himself for almost a decade in one policy area, as a shadow health secretary who progressed to the Whitehall department.

His single-minded vision for NHS reform provoked a loud chorus of opposition from health unions. The health bill even became the unlikely subject of a protest rap explaining it.

For some on the left, Andrew Lansley became the focus of all their objections and anxieties about the changes to the health service in England. From within his own party there were murmurings about his lack of communication skills - a failure to adequately "sell" the reforms.

So there will be some who will welcome his departure, but they may also look with trepidation at a new health secretary who has no track record with the NHS. Some civil servants at the Department of Health are said to have groaned when they found out there would be a new boss.

The BMA's official statement welcomed the "fresh opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care and deal with the many challenges facing the NHS".

Dr Peter Carter, of the Royal College of Nursing, admitted that the RCN had not seen eye to eye with Lansley on the government's health reforms.

"However, we have welcomed the continuous dialogue between Mr Lansley and RCN members during his time as health spokesman and as secretary of state.

"The RCN will now be looking to work with incoming Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt, to ensure that the nursing voice is heard."

Unite's head of health advised Mr Hunt to "reflect deep and hard on the errors of his predecessor".

Mr Hunt said the new role was "the biggest privilege of my life".

Speaking outside Downing Street he said: "I'm incredibly honoured and looking forward to getting on with the job."

Proposals in the Health and Social Care Bill for England include giving GPs control of much of the NHS budget and opening up the health service to greater competition from the private and voluntary sector from April 2013.

'Steep learning curve'

But many were opposed to Mr Lansley's plans for the health service and some doctors and senior officials called for his resignation.

Professional bodies, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives, asked for the bill to be scrapped.

Jeremy Hunt's CV

  • Mr Hunt studied at Oxford University, where he graduated with a first class honours degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics
  • He then went on to work for a management consultancy firm before going to Japan for two years where he taught English and learnt Japanese
  • On his return to the UK, Mr Hunt set up his own educational publishing business, Hotcourses, as well as a charity to help Aids orphans in Africa
  • In December 2005 he was appointed shadow minister for disabled people
  • In July 2007 he was appointed shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport

But the Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "at one" with Mr Lansley over the government's Health and Social Care Bill.

The bill gained Royal Assent in March 2012, more than 14 months after first being tabled in the House of Commons.

The BBC's Health Correspondent Branwen Jeffreys said Mr Hunt will have a steep learning curve, and little time to establish his credibility in one of the most taxing roles in the cabinet.

"He'll face scepticism and battle fatigue. The changes under way in the NHS in England are as yet largely invisible to the patient, but they touch every part of the health service. A new NHS Commissioning Board formally begins work next month, and by April large parts of the budget will be managed by GP-led groups.

"Mr Hunt is swapping into the driving seat part way through the journey, and to some extent will have to keep following the road map set out by his predecessor.

"He's got just a couple of months to gather his thoughts before the first big challenge, the publication of the public inquiry report into the terrible failings of care at Mid Staffs hospital in a couple of months.

"It is likely to be the first hot potato of many he will face in his new job."

Campaigners will try to maintain pressure, and have already seized on a pamphlet co-authored by Mr Hunt seven years ago which mooted universal insurance as a possible mechanism for health funding. That would go further than current thinking.

Some contracts for services are already going to private companies.

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