Top 10 longest-serving health secretaries

Jeremy Hunt has now outlasted NHS founder Aneurin Bevan at the head of his government's health department - but how far is he from being the longest-serving health secretary of all time?

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 - five years and 169 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, and as of this week has outlasted Aneurin Bevan.

One man has held an equivalent post for longer since the NHS began, as secretary of state for social services because health and social care were combined between 1968 and 1988. Between 1919 and 1968 the department of health was led by a health minister, rather than a health secretary.

When will Jeremy Hunt become the longest-serving health secretary?

Mr Hunt's role was expanded following a reshuffle earlier this year, seeing him take on the title of health and social care secretary.

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. Jeremy Hunt
4 Sept 2012 - date
Conservative 5 yrs 169 days
3. Aneurin Bevan
3 Aug 1945 - 17 Jan 1951**
Labour 5 yrs 167 days
4. Kenneth Robinson
18 Oct 1964 - 1 Nov 1968
Labour 4 yrs 14 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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Jeremy Hunt has outlasted Aneurin Bevan as health secretary

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