Reaction: Jeremy Hunt becomes health secretary

How key health organisations reacted to the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as health secretary.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt: replaces Andrew Lansley
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt: replaces Andrew Lansley

Jeremy Hunt replaced Andrew Lansley as health secretary in yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle. GP rounds up how leading health organisations reacted to the appointment.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said: ‘The appointment of a new health secretary provides a fresh opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care and deal with the many challenges facing the NHS.

‘It is struggling to cope with the consequences of major change. At the same time worsening financial pressures are having an adverse impact on many patient services including waiting times and the availability of some treatments.

‘Threats to the NHS workforce are escalating with attacks to the NHS pension scheme and the national pay scheme for our national health service. Investment in staff is essential to the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

‘We look forward to working with Jeremy Hunt on the many pressing issues facing our health service.’

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said: ‘We welcome Jeremy Hunt as our new health secretary. He is taking on a critical brief at a critical time. On behalf of our members, I look forward to working closely with him to address the challenges facing our health service.

‘Top of Mr Hunt's in-tray will be making sure the NHS is financially sustainable for the future and fit to respond to the needs of our changing population.

‘Reforms are important, but we must keep our eye on the long-term issues the NHS is facing: an ageing population and growing rates of obesity. Driving change in these areas will be the big test of the success of this government.

‘We would like to thank Andrew Lansley for his commitment to the NHS over the past eight and a half years, both in opposition and as health secretary. He has held his brief in health for almost a decade and that is something that not many other politicians can say they have done.’

NHS Alliance
NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said: ‘We are at a crucial point in the implementation of health reforms. We need to ensure that decisions are made at local level to meet the needs of patients.

‘There are many challenges ahead, not least issues around integration of health care and financial pressures. We expect Mr Hunt to recognise the progress made thus far by those working locally. We need clinicians at every level to be equally responsible for the success of the NHS. This was the promise of the reforms and that is what the NHS must deliver.

‘People need to feel they are being heard and that mechanisms are in place for their concerns to be dealt with, enabling them to shape the future of healthcare for the benefit of patients. Mr Hunt will do well to ensure that these communication channels are open and ready.

‘We look forward to working closely with Mr Hunt and his team to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients and the NHS.’

The King's Fund
The King's Fund chief executive Professor Chris Ham said: ‘Jeremy Hunt takes up his post with the NHS performing well after years of investment and reform. However, fundamental changes in the way care is delivered are needed if the NHS is to respond to the demands of an ageing population, changing burden of disease and rising patient expectations.

'The new health secretary must show political leadership by supporting the case for radical transformation in the delivery of care. Although funding pressures on the NHS and social care are an immediate and pressing concern, he must focus on addressing the longer-term challenges and ensure change benefits patients.’

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: ‘I want to welcome Jeremy Hunt into his new role as health secretary and offer my sincerest thanks for Andrew Lansley's tireless work at the DH.

'The NHS is highly regarded both here in the UK and around the world and Jeremy Hunt will face a number of challenges in not only safeguarding its short-term success, but its long-term future.

‘An ongoing challenge will be to ensure that the NHS performs better at getting the latest medicines to patients, because as it stands, people are still not able to access many of the most innovative treatments which are available on the continent.

'Industry will also continue to work closely with the DH to design a pricing system that provides a good deal for taxpayers, while ensuring a healthy and productive environment for companies to research and develop the medicines of the future.’

National Association of Primary Care
Dr Charles Alessi, chairman of the National Association of Primary Care, said: ‘Andrew Lansley is a politician with exemplary commitment and dedication to his portfolio, which, combined with his understanding of the NHS and the wider health sector, enabled him to overcome the many challenges he faced during his time at the DH.

'He leaves, as his legacy, the infrastructure on which the work on the modernisation of the NHS will take place. NAPC has valued his contribution to the NHS and wishes him well on his political journey.

‘The association welcomes the incoming health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and looks forward to forging an effective and productive working relationship with him and his team. The infrastructure is in place to take health care forward in the 21st century and I and the Association’s members look forward to assisting the incoming health secretary with the implementation of the modernisation agenda, on which so much will depend.’

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: ‘Jeremy Hunt as the new health secretary has a real opportunity to ride the public mood and ensure the NHS remains a universal service, free at the point of delivery to all those in need.

‘The NHS has been pushed to the brink of destruction by Andrew Lansley, a minister who simply would not listen either to the patients or the professionals. Jeremy Hunt must reflect deep and hard on the errors of his predecessor and seek immediate dialogue with the NHS team and their unions. He has the power to slam the door on the increasing privatisation of the NHS.

‘Andrew Lansley must rank as one of the worst health secretaries since the NHS was formed in 1948. He presided over deeply, unpopular bungled reforms which heralded rising waiting lists, £20bn cuts to services and job losses to thousands of nurses and other health workers. He installed an expensive, needless bureaucracy and announced an open sesame to the private firms which put profit before patient care.’

UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said: ‘The coalition government presided over the most damaging piece of legislation that the NHS has ever seen in the Health and Social Care Act, and this will be Andrew Lansley’s legacy.

‘Changing the name over the door will not change our opinion of the Act. It is about policies, not personalities, and our opposition will continue as long as this Tory-led coalition’s assault on our NHS persists.

‘Jeremy Hunt has an opportunity to listen to patients, professionals and unions about the damage the Act will continue to do to the NHS, let’s hope he does not waste it.’

Foundation Trust Network
Chair of the Foundation Trust Network (FTN) Peter Griffiths said: ‘The new health secretary can be in no doubt that he has a tough job. Implementing reforms is always risky, and even more so against a backdrop of severe financial challenges, budget cuts and ever-increasing demand for services.

‘Foundation trusts are the stable part of the NHS. They carry much of the burden of this risk and need to be able to use their autonomy and direct accountability to patients and the public to make the necessary changes in how they deliver services locally.

‘Andrew Lansley was a firm supporter of the foundation trust model of healthcare. FTN’s members look forward to that on-going support from the new health secretary.’

Macmillan Cancer Support
Mike Hobday, director of policy and research at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Andrew Lansley’s determination to deliver world-class cancer care has been unwavering and Macmillan looks forward to working closely with his successor, Jeremy Hunt, to ensure people affected by cancer get the best from the NHS.

‘One of the first priorities for the new health secretary will be social care reform. It’s vital the commitment shown by the previous ministerial team to free social care at the end of life continues so more cancer patients are given the choice to die at home surrounded by their friends and family.’

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