Jeremy Hunt has gone to the Foreign Office -Matt Hancock is the new Health Secretary. Of course, bothwere in a Tory Government which has presided over austerity since 2010 . NHS funding has flatlined, social care budgets cut because of local authority funding cuts -and there is an increase in poverty levels and reduction in life expectancy due to wider societal deprivation. So, whatever happens in the NHS and Department of Health, we have a background of wider society issues -and of course, Brexit. So on one level, the details of who is health secretary is irrelevant.
Theoretically, since the 2012 Lansley reforms , the Secretary of State for Health no longer has responsibility for running the NHS – NHS England is” independent” -and commissions services .Regulators both of quality (CQC )and finance(Monitor, now NHS Improvement) were meant to ensure delivery of safe efficient high quality services. However, Jeremy Hunt was very interested in the running of the NHS, monitoring waiting times, A and E performance etc. and was known to ring up hospital Chief Executives if their hospital performance was not up to scratch. There has been a huge “workaround” of the legislation, which was meant to promote more competition -now providers are being asked to collaborate over larger geographical areas in the STPs to move to more integrated care.
It will be interesting to see if the new Secretary of State takes a “hands off “approach to the NHS or will be as involved in the day to day running. His relationship with Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive will be key.Prior to joining Parliament; he worked for the Bank of England and as economic advisor to George Osborne. He also has links to the Institute of Economic Affairs, a free market think tank, which regularly calls for the NHS to be replaced by an insurance based system.
Will he try to push that agenda? Will he be more hawkish about NHS finances? Will he continue the “workarounds” of the Lansley reforms?