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Shuffling Ministers or dumping policy?

5 September, 2012
Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt
Image: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

The much expected cabinet reshuffle has happened and one of the fortunates or casualties, depending on your point of view, was Andrew Lansley the current Secretary of State for Health.

So we say goodbye to Andy and hello Jeremy.

The new Secretary of State for Health is Jeremy Hunt.

This name may ring a bell with some of you and if I say ‘phone hacking and Murdoch’ and Leveson Enquiry, it may jog a distant memory. Or maybe ‘Jeremy Hunt nearly brains member of the public with bell!’, or Jeremy Hunt takes credit for Olympics and refuses to acknowledge the contribution that Labour made to the bid.

The problem with this appointment is that we have yet to see the effects of the Health Bill from the ‘Lansley Reforms’ on saving the NHS. This is the same Bill that commentators, including the SoR, have said will not work and will result in fragmentation of services and low morale.

So far the former is yet to be tested and the latter proven to be true.

So are we about to see a change of direction or more of the same? Sadly, it is likely to be the latter. Although there are pundits who take the view that the coalition has decided that the NHS in England is to be placed in the ‘too difficult box’ and by giving this portfolio to a Minister with no track record in health, they can distance themselves if it all goes wrong.

We hope that this is not the case and the incoming Minister will take a critical and pragmatic view of the reforms and consider a rethink of the proposals.

The problem for the coalition, and also why this may very well be the poisoned chalice for this Minister, is that savings have to be made and the Government is committed to reducing the cost of health care in England. The early evidence of a mixed economy of private and public has had a mixed response and if the early results from some of the projects, where costs have increased and staff have been lost lost, are an indicator for the future, we are in for a rocky time and so too is this Minister.

There will always be a honeymoon period for a new incumbent. The problem for Jerry is that this will be short and, if it all goes wrong, so too will his time on the front benches.

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