Jeremy Hunt picks workforce planning as top issue he could have handled better

Jeremy Hunt has highlighted workforce planning as the number one issue he could have managed better in a series of tweets to mark becoming the longest-serving health secretary since the NHS began.

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt (Photo: Pete Hill)
Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt (Photo: Pete Hill)

Mr Hunt, now health and social care secretary after the expansion of his department in a government reshuffle at the start of 2018, wrote on Twitter that 'sometimes time has flown, at others it's been achingly slow, but every second of the last 5+ years has been a privilege'.

The Conservative MP for South West Surrey is now serving his 2,100th day at the head of his government's health department - one day more than the previous longest-serving minister in an equivalent role - fellow Tory Norman Fowler - managed in the 1980s.

Mr Hunt admitted as long ago as 2016 that he had failed adequately to prioritise building the GP workforce, saying that general practice had 'not received the attention it needed' and adding: 'I think I have to hold my hand up as secretary of state – but actually I think that all governments over the decades have not got right their workforce planning.'

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The initial admission that he had not done enough to manage workforce planning came just a year after Mr Hunt pledged in September 2015 to increase full-time equivalent (FTE) GP numbers by 5,000 by 2021.

Since that date, the number of FTE GPs has declined by more than 1,000 - and in fact by around 1,350 since a peak of 34,914 in March 2016. Meanwhile, GPs have continued to abandon partnership roles and the patient population has risen - and aged.

Mr Hunt also highlighted the importance of the link between health and social care and the idea that culture change was essential to improve patient safety as other key themes he wished he had known more about when he began the job.

He wrote that long-serving NHS staff were 'much more impressive' than a health secretary who had been in post for a record period.

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