Jeremy Hunt elected chair of House of Commons health committee

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been elected chair of the House of Commons health and social care committee.

New health committee chair Jeremy Hunt (Photo: Pete Hill)
New health committee chair Jeremy Hunt (Photo: Pete Hill)

Mr Hunt, who was health secretary from September 2012 until he became foreign secretary under prime minister Theresa May in 2018, is the longest serving health secretary in NHS history.

Last night he said he was 'honoured' to have been elected chair of the committee, which scrutinises policy and other matters relating to health, following a vote by MPs in a secret ballot.

Mr Hunt pledged to make a funding settlement for social care his top priority while in the post.

He said: 'Over nearly a decade in frontline politics, the NHS has always been my greatest political passion.

'For my last six months as health secretary, social care was formally added to my responsibilities but it was not long enough to bring forward reforms or – more crucially – a funding settlement for social care. That is what I will be pressing for, because the NHS will continue to fall over every winter until we fix social care, risking both patient safety and staff morale.

Patient safety

'I’ll also focus on making faster progress on mental health and patient safety; recent maternity scandals show we can never be complacent. I look forward to working with my committee to provide a strong, independent voice that supports NHS staff and patients in a very pressured period.'

However, some questioned how effective Mr Hunt would be at holding the government to account given that much of existing health policy began on his watch.

Former Labour leadership candidate and Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips said on Twitter: 'I have no idea how Jeremy Hunt newly elected health and social care select committee chair, can properly scrutinise the government on health policy and practice when much of it will have been his doing.'

GP workforce

Mr Hunt had a difficult relationship with the medical profession during his time as health secretary. In 2015 he famously promised to add 5,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs to the workforce in England by April 2020. However, by the time he left the DHSC in 2018 the number of FTE GPs had fallen by more than 1,400.

He was forced to defend his record on general practice at the RCGP annual conference in 2017 after a GP in the audience told him the profession was 'exhausted and drowning' and the situation had become worse during his time as health secretary.

Mr Hunt was also at the helm during the junior doctors contract dispute in 2015 and 2016, which led to the profession's first strike action in 40 years.

Last year, Mr Hunt lost out to Boris Johnson in the Conservative leadership election, which took place after Theresa May stood down as prime minister and leader of the party.

His predecessor as health committee chair was former MP for Totnes in Devon and GP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who lost her seat in the last general election.

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