Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed he can ‘win back trust’ for the Conservative Party, as he launched his bid to become Prime Minister this weekend.
He is one of 10 candidates to come forward vying for the top job, also including former health secretary Sajid Javid and former vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Launching his bid on Twitter, Mr Hunt said he is standing in order to ‘win back trust’.
And, in an interview with the Telegraph this weekend, Mr Hunt said he felt ‘a sense of relief’ after last week’s tumultuous events, which ultimately ended with Boris Johnson saying he would step down once his successor has been chosen.
But Mr Hunt may find himself in an uphill battle to win back the trust of the NHS, having famously served as the longest serving health secretary from 2012 onwards.
Mr Hunt, who was health secretary from 2012 to 2018, has done ‘lots of reflection’ on why he could not increase the GP workforce by his promised amount, he told GPs at Pulse Live.
Jeremy Hunt: The longest-serving health secretary
During his time as health secretary, he oversaw the implementation of Andrew 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.
However, throughout his time in post, GPs were leaving the profession at a faster rate than new doctors joined and, at the same time, practice closures were rife.
Outside of GP-land, Mr Hunt 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.
Notably, his campaign launch interview only mentioned the NHS in passing – with Mr Hunt saying he would keep the National Insurance rise because ‘the NHS needs the money’.
Instead he focused on announcing that he would cut corporation tax to 15%, and introduce lower business rates in deprived areas.
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.
Mr Hunt told Pulse editor Jaimie Kaffash in an exclusive interview in April this year that he had ‘not ruled out going back into frontline politics in the future’.
Also over the weekend, former health secretary Sajid Javid formally announced his campaign – also focusing on tax cuts, while now-Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said he would reduce the the size of all Government departments by 20%..
Mr Johnson was ultimately brought down over alleged Number 10 dishonesty regarding what he knew about misconduct allegations prior to appointing his deputy chief whip. However, discontent had been growing since the news of Mr Johnson having broken his own lockdown rules with Number 10 parties.