Jeremy Hunt, the former longest-serving health secretary, has been named as Chancellor, in a move which could have big implications for NHS spending.
Mr Hunt, who is currently chair of the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, has recently been vocal about the need for an urgent long-term NHS workforce plan.
Since he stepped down as health secretary, Mr Hunt’s tune changed with regards to general practice, recently becoming a vocal backer of the profession.
This followed his admission that he failed with regards to growing the GP workforce when he served as health secretary from 2012 to 2018.
Earlier this year, he notably backed a new campaign, alongside the BMA, to Rebuild General Practice, commenting at the time that he was ‘passionate’ about sorting out GP retention.
In addition to his calls for an NHS workforce plan, Mr Hunt has also recently repeated his wish for GPs to have individual patient lists, arguing that moving away from continuity of care has been ‘a big mistake’.
He also thinks that the NHS ‘should look at scrapping QOF’, to allow more ‘freedom and flexibility’ over how money is spent in general practice.
His appointment follows the sacking of Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng today, which followed economic turmoil resulting from the tax-cutting mini budget announced last month.
This had notably included plans for scrapping the Health and Social Care Levy that had been due to come into force in April.
Whilst Mr Kwarteng had confirmed he would not cut Department of Health and Social Care spending, he had not been able to say how the tax reduction would be funded.
It will now be up to Mr Hunt to decide whether to reverse the decision and reintroduce the levy, which had been intended to raise £36bn to buffer the NHS’s coffers even before the impact of raging inflation.
Also high up in Mr Hunt’s in-tray will be sorting out the problem with NHS pensions.
Upon the appointment of Ms Truss as Prime Minister in August, Mr Hunt took to Twitter to set out his suggestions for a six-point list of emergency NHS actions.
This included introducing ‘an immediate exemption for doctors to public sector pension rules which are currently forcing them to retire in their fifties in alarming numbers’.
In a press conference this afternoon, Prime Minister Liz Truss admitted that the mini-budget had destabilised the markets and that reassurance of ‘fiscal discipline’ was needed.
And she said: ‘Today, I have asked Jeremy Hunt to become the new Chancellor. He is one of the most experienced and widely-respected government ministers and parliamentarians, and he shares my convictions and ambitions for our country.
‘He will deliver the medium-term fiscal plan at the end of this month. He will see through the support we are providing to help families and businesses, including our energy price guarantee that is protecting people from higher energy bills this winter.
‘And he will drive our mission to go for growth, including taking forward the supply-side reforms that our country needs. We owe it to the next generation to improve our economic performance, to deliver higher wages, new jobs and better public services – and to ease the burden of debt.’
Responding to Mr Hunt’s appointment as Chancellor, BMA council chair Professor Philip Banfield said his ‘first priority’ must be to ‘rapidly remedy the pension taxation trap’, alongside putting forward ‘a credible plan for long-term investment in the NHS’.
He said: ‘Jeremy Hunt becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer at a perilous time for the NHS, with major questions being asked about the Treasury’s commitment to supporting the service.
‘As chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, he has very recently called for the Prime Minister to prioritise investment in the NHS and the workforce, recognising that persistent understaffing poses risks to patient safety.’
He added: ‘He is fully aware that we face what he called the “greatest workforce crisis in the history of the NHS” and that the Government must urgently address absurd pension taxation rules and consistent real-term reductions in pay which are driving staff out of the NHS.
‘We urge him to get round the table with us, reform what he said was the “national scandal of staff being forced to leave the NHS because of pension arrangements” and fix doctors’ pay.’
How Jeremy Hunt has proposed to solve the NHS workforce crisis
- ‘A mass overseas recruitment drive for doctors & nurses as a temporary, short-term lever – allowing [doctors] from countries with good medical education systems like Canada and Germany to be green listed so they don’t have to resit pointless additional exams’;
- ‘Grant an immediate exemption for doctors to public sector pension rules which are currently forcing them to retire in their fifties in alarming numbers.’
- ‘Make flexible working automatic across the NHS so we don’t drive staff with young families to become locums or agency nurses, which is often the only way they can juggle work and home life.’
- ‘Ditch the Stalinist centralism that has given the NHS more targets than any healthcare system in the world: replace national targets with easily accessible data that allows everyone to compare performance (CQC Ofsted style ratings work well).’
- ‘Move back to the system where everyone has their own GP rather than just being attached to a surgery. A study showed a 25% cut in mortality & 30% drop in hospital visits for people who saw the same GP (keeping our promise to recruit 6000 more GPs will help achieve this).’
- ‘Hospitals are full of people who can’t be discharged due to social care issues, mainly staff shortages. Local authorities need help now to boost pay rates for care workers, as they’re currently losing them in droves to the retail and hospitality sectors.’
Source: Jeremy Hunt/Twitter