Jeremy Hunt moves to foreign office as Brexit triggers cabinet reshuffle

Jeremy Hunt has moved to the foreign office as part of a major cabinet reshuffle, with former digital, culture, media and sport minister Matt Hancock appointed health secretary.

Jeremy Hunt reading GP magazine (Photo: JH Lancy)
Jeremy Hunt reading GP magazine (Photo: JH Lancy)

The reshuffle, triggered by a string of high-profile cabinet resignations over Brexit, brings to an end Mr Hunt's record five years and 309 days as health secretary.

The Conservative MP for South West Surrey took up the role in September 2012 while his party was in coalition with the Liberal Democrats and saw his remit expanded to cover health and social care as part of a further reshuffle earlier this year.

Mr Hunt said on Twitter it was a 'massive wrench' to leave the DHSC after so long in the role, calling it the greatest privilege of my life' to have been health secretary.

Workforce planning was picked out by Mr Hunt earlier this year as the number one issue he could have handled better. The government is struggling to meet the target he set in 2015 of increasing the GP workforce by 5,000 full-time equivalent doctors by 2020/21, with a drop of more than 1,000 GPs since the target was set.

His departure comes just nine months before the introduction of state-backed indemnity for GPs, although defence organisations have warned that the profession has yet to be given the detail it needs on how the system will work. General practice is also awaiting the publication of a report on pay from the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) - and a government decision on whether the profession will be offered a 2018/19 pay rise beyond an 'interim' 1% agreed earlier this year.

Among Mr Hunt's key moments in office are the introduction of CQC checks on health providers, with the first full round of checks on GP practices completed in 2017. The Ofsted-style rating system was recommended in 2013 in a report commissioned by Mr Hunt.

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The former health secretary has overseen the introduction of the GP Forward View, hailed at the time by the RCGP as the 'most significant GP deal since the 1960s', and more recently secured a planned increase in the annual NHS budget of £20.5bn in real terms by 2023/24 - although doctors' leaders have warned the funding is needed faster.

Among his first acts as health secretary after taking over in the wake of Andrew Lansley's huge NHS reform programme was to condemn failings at Stafford Hospital as a 'betrayal', which he vowed would be a 'catalyst for change'.

Despite increased funding for GPs in recent contracts, Mr Hunt's tenure began with an imposed contract that began the removal of MPIG and sparked fears of huge funding cuts for the profession. His record was also marked in recent years by the first strikes by junior doctors in four decades.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul congratulated Matt Hancock on his appointment as health and social care secretary.

He said: 'We congratulate Mr Hancock on his appointment and look forward to working constructively with him on the development of health policies to ensure safe, high quality patient care.

'While there is a new secretary of state, the challenges the health service faces remain the same. Patients are facing longer waits for care, so-called "winter pressures" in the NHS are now hitting the service all year round, and it lacks doctors, nurses, and beds.

'This appointment comes at a crucial time for the health service and doctors want to see the new secretary of state put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the future, address the serious funding shortfall and ensure we can recruit and retain the right number of doctors, with the right support and infrastructure, to deliver high quality care for patients.'

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