Jeremy Hunt’s contract imposition and 1.32% pay award mean he’s achieved the impossible – and become more unpopular among GPs than his predecessor Andrew Lansley. No one can accuse him of lacking ideas, however.
His plans for a ‘named clinician’ to be responsible for the care of elderly patients will be a key part of the GP contract negotiations, and – despite a lack of clarity – his plans for extended hours in the evenings and at weekends have the potential to turn GPs’ lives upside down. GPs may doubt the policies, but there’s no doubt Mr Hunt plays politics very well indeed.
He seems to thrive on controversy. In his previous job as culture secretary he was embroiled in scandals over his – and his special adviser’s – relationships with News Corporation and over security arrangements at the London Olympics.
That relish for adversity has spilled over into his period at the Department of Health. Critics were surprised at his appointment when he had voiced support for the NHS paying for homeopathy and voted for the abortion limit to be halved from 24 weeks gestation to just 12 weeks.
But whether Mr Hunt goes down in history as the ‘most pro-GP health secretary for 50 years’ – as he calls himself – or as ‘the Voldemort of the NHS’ – as our panel branded him – will be revealed over the next few months as the crucial negotiations over the new GP contract unfold and his ‘profound reform’ of general practice in England is unveiled.
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