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Jeremy Hunt stays in health secretary post with extended social care brief

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is to remain in post following today’s Cabinet reshuffle, taking on the new longer title of secretary of state for health and social care.

The South West Surrey MP, who holds the record as longest-serving health secretary, has been in the post since 2012, when he replaced Andrew Lansley.

The re-appointment comes despite Mr Hunt having to apologise last week for the current crisis in NHS services, which saw hospitals cancel tens of thousands of operations and GPs abandon planned leave to try and meet patient demand.

During his time as health secretary, Mr Hunt has overseen the implementation of Mr Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act 2012 reforms, including the early days of NHS England and CCGs, as well as all NHS contracts having to be put out to competitive tender.

Mr Hunt made himself unpopular with GPs early on by blaming what he called the ‘disastrous’ 2004 GP contract for pressures on the health service, because it meant GP practices were able opt out of directly providing out-of-hours services.

His hardline approach was cemented with the 2013 imposition of GP contract updates, which included wide-ranging QOF changes.

Since the 2015 general election, he has been pursuing the Conservative Party’s pledge for seven-day opening in general practice, as well as its ambitious promise to boost the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020.

However, throughout his time in post, GPs have been leaving the profession at a faster rate than new doctors have joined and, at the same time, practice closures have been rife.

In 2015, this led the Government to attempt to launch a so-called ‘new deal’ for general practice, which was followed in 2016 by the GP Forward View £2.4bn rescue package.

Outside of GP-land, Mr Hunt has most notably made himself unpopular with junior doctors during the long-running dispute over their new contract, which he ended up imposing on the profession despite a series of strikes by doctors.

Mr Hunt has held the seat as MP for South West Surrey since 2005. Previous Government posts for Mr Hunt included being secretary for Culture, Media and Sports 2010-2012, which saw him overseeing the 2012 London Olympics.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘This is a critical role at a critical time for general practice and the wider NHS and we will continue to work constructively with Jeremy Hunt in his expanded role as secretary of state for both health and social care in England.

‘We support the bringing together of health and social care into the portfolio of one minister as we recognise that what happens to patients in the NHS is profoundly impacted by the state of social care.’