Top 10 longest-serving health secretaries

Is Jeremy Hunt really the UK's longest-serving health secretary after lasting longer than Labour's Alan Milburn?

Jeremy Hunt: flying high in our top 10 of longest-serving health secretaries
Jeremy Hunt: flying high in our top 10 of longest-serving health secretaries

Jeremy Hunt became health secretary on 4 September 2012 - three years and 259 days ago. He moved past Labour health secretary Alan Milburn in early May 2016 to become the longest-serving of the 12 MPs who have held the post of secretary of state for health since 1988.

Three men have held equivalent posts for longer since the NHS began, either as health minister - a role that existed from 1919 to 1968 - or as secretary of state for health and social services when the two were combined between 1968 and 1988. One of these - Sir Keith Joseph - was overtaken by Mr Hunt on 20 May.

Mr Hunt's predecessor Andrew Lansley missed out on joining the top 10 longest-serving health secretaries after being moved out of the role after two years and 120 days. Prior to his appointment, Mr Lansley was widely trumpeted as among the best-prepared health secretaries in history, after a six-year spell as Conservative shadow health secretary.

Top 10 health secretaries by time spent in post since the NHS began
Rank Name and Years in office Party Length of tenure
1. Norman Fowler
14 Sept 1981 - 13 Jun 1987*
Conservative 5 yrs 272 days
2. Aneurin Bevan
3 Aug 1945 - 17 Jan 1951**
Labour 5 yrs 167 days
3. Kenneth Robinson
18 Oct 1964 - 1 Nov 1968
Labour 4 yrs 14 days
4. Jeremy Hunt
4 Sept 2012 - date
Conservative 3 yrs 297 days
5. Sir Keith Joseph
20 Jun 1970 - 4 Mar 1974*
Conservative 3 yrs 258 days
6. Alan Milburn
11 October 1999 - 13 June 2003
Labour 3 yrs 245 days
7. Iain Macleod
7 May 1952 - 20 Dec 1955
Conservative 3 yrs 227 days
8. Virginia Bottomley
10 Apr 1992 - 5 Jul 1995
Conservative 3 yrs 86 days
9. Enoch Powell
27 Jul 1960 - 20 Oct 1963
Conservative 3 yrs 85 days
10. David Ennals 
8 Apr 1976 - 4 May 1979*
Labour 3 yrs 27 days

*In post as Secretary of State for Social Services because health was part of the social care department between 1968 and 1988.

** NHS established in 1948 – halfway through Aneurin Bevan’s five-and-a-half-year tenure as health secretary.

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