After unilaterally imposing last year’s contract and hinting heavily that GPs should take back responsibility for out-of-hours care, Jeremy Hunt was dangerously close to becoming the most reviled health secretary of all time.
But he commands some grudging respect from our panel after his adept handling of this year’s contract negotiations, having deftly crafted a deal that allowed both the Department of Health and the GPC to claim success. As our panel put it, ‘he certainly has a way with the public’.
But don’t unpin his photo from your dartboard just yet. He also green-lighted a funding uplift for GPs of only 0.28% and appears to be sitting back while scores of practices reach the brink of closure.
He has revealed plans this year to ‘name and shame’ GP practices over their cancer referral rates – and this is only the beginning of his ‘transparency agenda’.
He also is pushing ahead with pilots of the Prime Minister’s pet project of seven-day GP opening, recently expanding them to cover 20 areas, despite warnings that practices are struggling to cope during regular hours.
Whether you agree with his policies or not, you can’t deny that he is a consummate politician and this may be his saving grace.
If David Cameron loses the next election then the ultra-ambitious Mr Hunt is likely to be among the first in line to bid for his job. GPs will not be sad to see him go.