Jeremy Hunt was the longest serving health secretary in the history of the NHS. Most of his time has been characterised by disputes with the profession – most notably junior doctors, but also GPs. There have been positive elements – but these have been outnumbered by the negatives.
Jeremy Hunt definitely did not get off to a good start with GPs, with his first GP contract negotiations resulting in a heavy-handed imposition of terms with which GP leaders were deeply unhappy.
In subsequent years, he picked a number of fights with the medical profession, most notably with the imposition of the junior doctor contract that saw junior doctors taking industrial action.
In terms of GPs, he pursued a number of poorly judged policies. His costly, and strongly contested, brainchild of seven-day access to routine GP appointments has been criticised by the vast majority of the GP profession.
Meanwhile, the Government-published CQC ‘intelligent monitoring’ scores (that were thankfully abandoned)
There have also been valiant, but questionable, efforts including: his target to boost the GP workforce by 5,000 – which, very sadly, is on a definite course for failure; the ‘new deal’ for general practice and the £2.4bn GP Forward View rescue package – the impact of which is contested; and the ambition of a ‘paperless NHS’ by 2018.
A lot of the positive elements have come in recent months. This includes the state-backed indemnity scheme for GPs to be introduced by next April; the review to reinvigorate the GP partnership model; the ongoing six-month review of GP premises.
Such schemes have seen a thawing of the relationship with the BMA’s GP Committee. Chair Dr Richard Vautrey says the GPC has been able to ‘work with him’ to ‘reverse most’ of the changes brought in by the contract imposition. Dr Vautrey even says it is ‘important that the new secretary of state backs these commitments’.
Mr Hunt will also likely be remembered in a positive light when it comes to his backing the medical profession in resisting the GMC’s right to take its own tribunal to court to strike off doctors.
There are a couple of major changes in the offing, including the ongoing long-term funding settlement for the NHS and social care – the details of which have yet to be worked out.
And the BMA GP Committee and NHS England are involved in an ongoing consultation that ‘could herald the most substantial changes to the GP contract since 2004’.
Hunt himself is circumspect around his departure:
Massive wrench for me to leave health – I know some staff haven’t found me the easiest Health Sec but the NHS, and particularly patient safety, has become my passion & it really was the greatest privilege of my life to serve for so many years
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 9, 2018