Jeremy Hunt appointed health and social care secretary in reshuffle

Jeremy Hunt has been appointed secretary of state for health and social care as part of a cabinet reshuffle by prime minister Theresa May.

Jeremy Hunt: appointed health and social care secretary in reshuffle
Jeremy Hunt: appointed health and social care secretary in reshuffle

The announcement from the prime minister's office brings to an end speculation that Mr Hunt, who has served as health secretary for just over five years and four months, could move to a new role in the midst of an ongoing NHS winter crisis.

Social care was already a function led by the DH, but the broader title for Mr Hunt suggests a renewed focus on integration of health and social care under the current government. The changes will see his department renamed to become the Department of Health and Social Care.

Mr Hunt remained in Downing Street for more than an hour on Monday as observers awaited news of how the reshuffle would affect him. The secretary of state missed a House of Commons debate on an emergency question tabled by Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth on the NHS winter crisis, with opposition MPs asking in parliament if Mr Hunt had been moved when the minister standing in for him said he wanted to 'pay tribute' to the health secretary.

Following the expansion of Mr Hunt's role, his department will take on responsibility for a forthcoming government green paper on social care. The paper was previously being managed by the Cabinet Office - with former minister Damian Green announcing it would be published by summer 2018.

Social care

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday shortly before the announcement of Mr Hunt's new role, health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston urged the government to combine the social care green paper with NHS planning.

'There's nothing new about winter pressures in the NHS,' she told MPs. 'What's different is that they are extending now into traditionally quieter months and the depth of those pressures is so much more profound over the current winter because there has been a failure over successive governments to plan sufficiently for the scale of increased demand over both social and healthcare.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard backed the expanded role handed to Mr Hunt. 'We support the bringing together of health and social care into the portfolio of one minister as we recognise that what happens to patients in the NHS is profoundly impacted by the state of social care.'

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